South Africa Extends Longest Trade-Surplus Run Since 2011

  • August’s trade surplus was 5.9 billion rand; above estimate
  • Year-to-date surplus is 43.5 billion rand versus 2016 deficit

South Africa had a surplus on its trade balance in August, a seventh straight month of positive readings, the longest such run since 2011.

The 5.9 billion-rand ($437 million) surplus compares with July’s revised 9.3 billion-rand positive balance, the Pretoria-based South African Revenue Service said in an emailed statement Friday. The median of six economists’ estimates was for 2.1 billion rand.

The surplus eases pressure on the current account, the broadest measure of trade in goods and services, while also boosting the rand, which has gained 1.8 percent to the dollar this year despite political turmoil that’s seen the nation lose investment-grade status on its foreign-currency debt and as the economy suffers through the second recession in almost a decade.

Exports rose 11 percent to 103.4 billion rand from a month earlier, while imports were 16 percent higher at 97.4 billion rand, the revenue service said. Shipments of mineral products climbed 21 percent from the previous month, while imports of the same goods advanced 65 percent, it said.

The current-account deficit narrowed to 3.3 percent of gross domestic product last year and the Treasury said in February the shortfall will probably be 3.9 percent this year. The trade surplus for the year so far is 43.5 billion rand, compared with a 13.7 billion-rand deficit in the same period 12 months earlier.

The rand has this year been the most volatile among major and emerging-market currencies tracked by Bloomberg. On Sept. 21, the central bank raised its growth forecast for 2017 to 0.6 percent from 0.5 percent, while keeping its 2018 projection at 1.2 percent. Last year, GDP expanded at the lowest annual rate since a 2009 recession last year.

The rand strengthened 0.1 percent to 13.499 per dollar by 2:09 p.m. in Johannesburg. The yield on rand-denominated government bonds due December 2026 fell 7 basis points to 8.56 percent.

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

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