Another SA trade surplus surprise - thanks to continuing commodity boom

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Imports were mixed with mineral products up 16% and vehicle and transport equipment up 18%.
Imports were mixed with mineral products up 16% and vehicle and transport equipment up 18%.
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The trade balance for April recorded a surplus of R51 billion, higher than the market consensus expectation of R37.5 billion.

The South African Revenue Service on Monday released the trade data, which was only slightly lower than the R52.5 billion recorded in March.

Precious metals and stones were the only export category that reported an increase, up 12%. Vegetable products, chemicals, base metals, and vehicles and transport equipment categories all reported declines. Total exports decreased by 3.9% month-on-month to R161 billion.

Imports were mixed with mineral products up 16% and vehicle and transport equipment up 18%. Imports of chemical products, machinery and electronics and original equipment components all declined. Overall, total imports declined month-on-month by 4.6% to R110 billion.

In a note, Investec economist Lara Hodes said that robust commodity prices and strengthening global demand are expected to continue to "buoy" export growth. Investec sees the trade surplus persisting in the near term.

In a separate note on global trade, Stanlib economists highlighted that the SA economy is benefiting from a rise in commodity prices, resulting in record foreign trade surpluses. "However, it is evident from a breakdown of SA's export performance that we continue to rely heavily on commodity exports and would benefit enormously from a broadening of the export base," the note read.

World trade volumes have improved by over 25% in the past ten months, Stanlib noted. Trade levels are now around 3% above the peak that existed in 2018.

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