South African Trade Balance Swings to Deficit in January

(Bloomberg) -- South Africa recorded its biggest trade deficit in a year in January as vehicle exports slumped.

The balance on the trade account swung to a shortfall of 13.1 billion rand ($939 million) from a revised surplus of 16.7 billion rand in December, the Pretoria-based South African Revenue Service said in an emailed statement Thursday. The median of eight economists’ estimates was for a gap of 14.5 billion rand.

South African Trade Balance Swings to Deficit in January

Key Insights:

  • The shortfall increases pressure on the current account, which is the broadest measure of traded goods and services, and the rand. The currency weakened 5 percent against the dollar this month, its worst February drop since 1996, as Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd.’s operational and financial woes weighed on investor sentiment.
  • For each of the past four years the January trade deficit was the biggest shortfall in the 12-month period.
  • Exports fell 13.3 percent from December to 88.7 billion rand, led by a 51 percent drop in the shipment of vehicles and transport equipment. Imports rose by 18.9 percent to 101.8 billion rand. The biggest increase by value was machinery imports, which surged 31 percent, or 5.8 billion rand.

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