Johannesburg - South Africa’s trade deficit narrowed to
R8.9bn in May from a R9.9bn shortfall in April, the South African Revenue
Service said on Friday.
“The (lower) trade deficit ... was mainly due to increased
exports of precious and semi-precious stones, mineral products and machinery
and electrical appliances and increased imports of mineral products and
machinery and electrical appliances,” Sars said.
Exports rose by 20.4% month-on-month to R62.8bn in May while
imports increased by 15.6% to R71.7bn, Sars data showed.
Economists surveyed by Reuters expected a shortfall of
R5.4bn for May but the data is volatile and hard to forecast.
Said Standard Chartered analyst Razia Khan: “The expectation
had been that after a few months of very negative data, we were overdue some
sort of correction...not so. South African trade comes in worse than expected -
and following on from last week’s current account deficit release, which also
surprised negatively, it will weigh on sentiment.
“Not only was Q1 a bad quarter for trade, Q2 looks like it
may be even worse.
“The contrast with the same period last year is telling. Of
course, dividend outflows also had a significant role to play in the Q1 current
account deficit widening.
“And while the trade data does not usually move the market,
and the rand is influenced (more positively) by bigger factors today, the
emerging trade picture cannot be shrugged off entirely.”
The rand was firmer at R82264 against the dollar at 12:13
GMT, mainly tracking a stronger euro, from R8.2399 before the data was released
at 12:00 GMT. The yield on the 2015 bond was steady at 6.01% as was that for
the 2026 issue at 7.945%.
The trade account
recorded its first annual surplus in seven years in 2010 but swung back into
deficit last year as rising imports outweighed export receipts.
This weighed on the current account, which widened to 3.3%
of GDP in 2011 from 2.8% in 2010, but is starting to train its sights on its
poor but fast-growing African cousins as turmoil in Europe slashes exports to
its traditional markets.