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SA posts R400m trade deficit in July

As imports rise.

South Africa posted a trade deficit in July as imports of vehicle and transport equipment increased, offsetting a surge in base metals exports.

The trade balance swung to R400 million ($30 million) deficit from a revised R5.48 billion surplus in June, the Pretoria-based South African Revenue Service said in an e-mailed statement on Monday. The median estimate of seven economists surveyed by Bloomberg was for a deficit of R1.6 billion. The shortfall for the first seven months of the year was R25.3 billion compared with R53.4 billion in 2014.

A 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 last week. The current-account shortfall eased to 4.8% of gross domestic product in the three months through March, from 5.1% in the previous quarter.

Falling oil prices and relatively soft domestic consumption and investment demand should “keep import growth in check,” Kamilla Kaplan, an economist at Investec, said in an e- mailed note to clients before the data were released. “Export growth is at risk of under-performing in line with the broad downturn in global trade.”

Exports of R94.2 billion reflected a 16% increase in shipments of mineral products, which includes coal and iron ore, and a 17% jump in base metals. Imports rose to R94.6 billion as purchases of vehicle and transport equipment increased by 20%.

The current-account deficit will probably narrow to 4.6% this year from 5.4% in 2014, the Reserve Bank said on July 23. Further improvement will be constrained by the recent decline in commodity prices, it said.

The Bloomberg Commodity Index of 22 raw materials has dropped 3.6% this month, with Brent oil tumbling below $43 a barrel for the first time since 2009.

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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