CAPE TOWN: South Africa recorded a second consecutive trade surplus in April even as exports of precious metals and stones and mineral products declined. The surplus narrowed to 430 million rand ($27 million) from a revised 2 billion rand in March, the Pretoria-based South African Revenue Service said in an e-mailed statement on Tuesday. The median of 11 economist estimates compiled by Bloomberg was for a deficit of 900 million rand. The cumulative deficit for 2016 is 18.7 billion rand, 42 percent less than the 32 billion rand shortfall in the first four months of last year.
Slow growth and waning demand in South African main export markets led to a slump in the nation’s shipments, even as the rand lost 27 percent of its value against the dollar since the start of 2015. While a trade shortfall could continue to put pressure on the current account, the broadest measure of trade in goods and services, the surplus should add support to the currency, according to Elna Moolman, an economist at Macquarie Group Ltd.
The trade surplus is “to some extent a reaction to rand weakness,” Moolman said by phone from Johannesburg on Tuesday. “Looking at the general trend, which has improved, it should be positive for the rand.” The rand gained 0.39 percent to 15.7514 per dollar as of 3:10 p.m. in Johannesburg on Tuesday. Yields on rand-denominated government bonds due December 2016 fell seven basis points to 9.40 percent.
Exports decreased by 3.2 percent to 92.2 billion rand in April as the shipments of precious metals and stones, which include diamonds, declined by 1.7 billion rand, or 9.5 percent, and exports of mineral products, which include iron ore and coal, were down 527 million rand, or 3.1 percent. Imports declined by 1.5 percent to 91.8 billion rand after purchases of vegetable products slumped by 34 percent, or 1.2 billion rand, and imports of mineral products, which include oil, decreased by 2.6 percent, or 334 million rand. Monthly trade figures are often volatile, reflecting the timing of shipments of commodities such as oil and diamonds.