South Africa trade surplus widens in September as imports drop

South Africa’s trade surplus widened in September as the value of oil imports decreased.

The R5.2 billion surplus compares with a revised R4.5 billion positive balance in August, Pretoria-based South African Revenue Service said Thursday in a statement on its website. The median estimate of five economists in a Bloomberg survey was for a surplus of R2 billion.

Key Insights

The surplus may bode well for the current account, which is the broadest measure of trade in goods and services, and the rand. The deficit on the current account widened to 4% of gross domestic product in the three months through June, the biggest in a year. It’s been a key risk to the economy for years, given the country also runs a fiscal deficit, which is forecast to widen to a 11-year high of 6.5% of GDP in 2020-2021 as the government props up the cash-strapped Eskom.

The trade account has a positive balance of R2.5 billion for the first nine months of 2019, compared with R1.8 billion for the same period last year, the tax agency said.

Total export value fell 7.8% from a month earlier to R110.4 billion, led by a 10% drop in shipments of mineral products, which include iron ore and a coal, and an 11% decline in vehicle and transportation equipment.

Imports fell by 8.6% to R105.3 billion as the value of the inward shipment of mineral products, which include oil, dropped by 23%.

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