Trade update: Trade surplus narrows to R4.0bn in September from a prior R6.0bn

30 Oct 2017

Annabel Bishop

Chief Economic

The trade surplus narrowed to R4.0bn in September from R6.0bn in August, as exports contracted by 1.6% m/m to R101.8bn whilst imports lifted by 0.4% m/m to R97.8bn.

Trade balance and rolling average
  • The trade surplus narrowed to R4.0bn in September from R6.0bn in August, as exports contracted by 1.6% m/m to R101.8bn whilst imports lifted by 0.4% m/m to R97.8bn.
  • On a cumulative basis, in the first nine months of the year, exports increased by 5.4% y/y whilst imports contracted by 1.2% y/y yielding a trade surplus of R47.1bn compared to a deficit of R6.7bn incurred in the same period last year.
  • Commodities have accounted for the improved export performance so far this year. In the first nine months of the year, exports of mineral products, precious metals and base metals rose by 33.2% y/y, 4.6% y/y and 2.1% y/y respectively.
  • Metals prices have strengthened over the course of 2017 on tightening supplies. Precious metals prices have increased marginally so far this year, relative to the same period last year, on investment demand and heightened geopolitical tensions.
  • Global merchandise goods trade also rebounded this year as global growth has continued to pick-up momentum.
  • Despite the more favourable global backdrop, growth in the local mining and manufacturing sectors has been constrained by weak domestic demand and persistent policy uncertainty which continues to manifest in depressed business and consumer confidence.
  • Weak rates of domestic consumption and investment have contributed to import compression. For instance, imports of consumption goods such as clothing have contracted by 6.4% y/y, whilst capital goods imports such as machinery and equipment fell by 8.1% y/y. Additionally, imports of agriculture products have contracted by 30.0% y/y as domestic agriculture output has recovered post the drought.
Figure 2: Metal and mineral prices