*Imports fall 17% from January; machinery shipments drop 25%
*Exports climb 12%, with vehicles, transport more than doubling
30 March 2018, Johannesburg — South Africa’s trade balance swung to a surplus in February after recording the biggest deficit in at least 28 years a month earlier as exports of vehicles and transport equipment more than doubled and machinery imports declined.
The 431.4 million-rand ($36 million) surplus compares with January’s revised 27.1 billion-rand negative balance, the Pretoria-based South African Revenue Service said in an emailed statement Thursday. The median estimate of three economists surveyed by Bloomberg was for a 1 billion-rand surplus. The surplus was 5 billion rand a year earlier.
Positive trade balances have eased pressure on the current account, the broadest measure of trade in goods and services, boosting the rand. The currency is the best performer worldwide against the dollar since the ruling African National Congress voted for Cyril Ramaphosa to lead the party in December, ending Jacob Zuma’s reign.
The government is battling to return public finances to a sustainable path and stave off another credit-rating downgrade, following years of stagnant growth and policy missteps that left a gaping hole in the budget.
Here are some highlights from the statement:
*Imports declined 17 percent to 90.2 billion rand from a month earlier as inward shipments of machinery and electronics dropped 25 percent from January
*Exports rose 12 percent to 90.6 billion rand, with vehicles and transport equipment shipments more than doubling
*The trade deficit for the year so far is 26.7 billion rand, compared with a negative balance of 7.6 billion rand a year earlier
*Ana Monteiro – Bloomberg