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SA trade deficit widens in August as exports drop

Imports rose 3.6% on back of vehicle and transportation equipment purchases.

South Africa’s trade deficit widened in August as exports of minerals such as coal and iron-ore declined and oil imports rose.

The trade gap increased to R9.95 billion ($720 million) from a revised R1.1 billion in July, the Pretoria-based South African Revenue Service said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday. The median estimate of 14 economists surveyed by Bloomberg was for a shortfall of R3.4 billion. The deficit for the first eight months of the year was R36.3 billion compared with R69.9 billion in 2014.

The deficit on the trade account will keep pressure on the current account, the broadest measure of trade in goods and services, and the rand, which fell to a record against the dollar this week. The current-account shortfall eased to 3.1% of gross domestic product in the three months through June, the lowest in almost four years, from 4.7% in the previous quarter.

“The broadly unfavorable global growth prospects are likely to exert pressure on South Africa’s potential export growth,” Kamilla Kaplan, an economist at Investec in Johannesburg, said in an e-mailed note to clients before the data was released.

The rand has weakened 16% against the dollar this year. The positive effect of the depreciation on export volumes is limited by the slowing global economy, electricity supply constraints and declining tourism receipts, the Reserve Bank said on September 23. The currency was little changed at 13.8540 per dollar at 2:15 pm in Johannesburg from before the data was released.

Exports declined by 5.9% to R87.6 billion, led by a 20% drop in shipments of minerals products. Imports rose 3.6% to R97.6 billion as purchases of vehicle and transportation equipment jumped 22% and the category that includes oil surged 12%.

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

©2015 Bloomberg News

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