South African Trade Gap Narrows as Lower Oil Curbs Imports

A ship approaches the dock at the Port of Durban, operated by Transnet SOC Holdings Ltd.'s Ports Authority, in Durban, South Africa, on Oct. 20.

Photographer: Kevin Sutherland/Bloomberg

South Africa’s trade deficit narrowed to 0.9 billion rand ($65 million) in September as lower oil prices curbed imports.

The trade gap eased from a revised 10.1 billion rand in August, the Pretoria-based South African Revenue Service said in an e-mailed statement on Friday. The median estimate of 14 economists surveyed by Bloomberg was for a shortfall of 4.9 billion rand.

South Africa’s trade outlook has improved this year as falling oil prices and weaker domestic demand curbs imports. The deficit for the first nine months of the year was 37.35 billion rand, almost half its value in the same period of 2014. That’s easing pressure on the current-account deficit and may underpin the rand after it fell 16 percent against the dollar this year.

The rand rose 0.5 percent to 13.826 against the dollar as of 3:40 p.m. in Johannesburg.

The government is projecting the shortfall on the current account, the broadest measure of trade in goods and services, will reach 4.1 percent of gross domestic product this year. The deficit was 3.1 percent of GDP in the second quarter.

Exports rose 5.6 percent to 92.3 billion rand, mainly due to a jump in mineral products, which includes coal and iron-ore shipments. Imports fell 4.5 percent to 93.2 billion rand.

The monthly trade figures are often volatile, reflecting the timing of shipments of commodities such as oil and diamonds.

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