Trade balance gives SA hope about economy - analyst

Johannesburg – The trade surplus declined from R5.9bn reported in August to R4bn in September, data from the South African Revenue Service (SARS) revealed.

According to the trade data report released on Tuesday, the year-to-date trade surplus of R47.12bn is an improvement on the deficit of R6.66bn reported for the same period last year. However the R4bn surplus reported for September this year is less than the surplus of R7.01bn recorded in September 2016, said SARS.

The figures are as a result of a contraction in exports by 1.6% month-on-month to R101.8bn, while imports increased 0.4% to R97.8bn. So far this year, exports increased 5.4%, while imports have contracted 1.2%.

“Commodities have accounted for the improved export performance so far this year,” explained Investec economist Kamilla Kaplan. Weak rates of domestic consumption and investment have contributed to the decline in imports, she said.

Not so bad

“The trade balance momentum is the one aspect that gives the country hope that things are not all that bad,” said Standard Bank’s head of commercial banking Karl Gotte.

He explained that there are factors to look forward to such as the expansion of tourism activities and an uptick in the agriculture sector. The global economic recovery is also feeding through locally, seen in the results of the mining sector productivity for the third quarter, he explained.

However, Gotte pointed out that the political landscape could cause a negative shift in global investor sentiment. “The current domestic landscape does not allow for continued momentum and the probable ratings downgrade ignite fear of what lies ahead for many,” he said.