Thursday May 25 2017
South Africa Holds Repo Rate At 7%
SARB | Joana Taborda | joana.taborda@tradingeconomics.com

The South African Reserve Bank kept its benchmark repo rate on hold at 7 percent at its May 25th 2017 meeting, in line with market expectations. Policymakers said that although the inflation outlook has improved over the near term, the longer-term forecast is unchanged, remaining close to the upper limit of the target range. In addition, the rand and domestic bond yields benefited from increased global capital inflows to emerging markets which largely offset the impact of the sovereign credit ratings downgrade. However, with further ratings decisions imminent, risks remain for a further depreciation against the backdrop of continued global and domestic political uncertainty. Also, domestic growth prospects have deteriorated. The central bank revised down inflation and growth forecasts for this year.

Excerpts from the statement by Governor Lesetja Kganyago:

The inflation forecast of the Bank has improved over the near term, but is unchanged in the outer quarters. In line with the previous forecast, headline consumer price inflation is expected to remain within the range for the rest of the forecast period. Inflation is expected to average 5.7% this year compared with 5.9% previously, while the forecast for 2018 has moderated by 0.1 percentage point to 5.3%. The forecast average for 2019 is unchanged at 5.5%.

The domestic growth outlook has deteriorated amid weak business and consumer confidence. The Bank’s forecast for GDP growth has been revised down for the entire forecast period, by 0.2 percentage points for 2017 and 2018, and by 0.3 percentage points in 2019. Annual growth rates of 1.0%, 1.5% and 1.7% for the forecast years are now expected. This downward revision is due in part to the expected impact of the sovereign credit ratings downgrade on domestic private sector gross fixed capital formation in particular. The downgrade is also likely to weigh on public sector investment through higher funding costs and more difficult access to funding. 

The rand remains a key upside risk to the forecast. The rand has, however, been surprisingly resilient in the face of recent domestic developments. This is partly due to offsetting factors, particularly positive sentiment towards emerging markets and the improved current account balance. The current level of the exchange rate, at below R13.00 against the dollar, is slightly stronger than at the time of the last meeting and stronger than that implicit in the starting point for the real exchange rate assumption. 

The outlook for the rand, and therefore the risks to the inflation outlook, will be highly sensitive to unfolding domestic political uncertainty, as well as decisions by the credit ratings agencies. The rand could weaken significantly in the event of a worst-case ratings downgrade scenario that could result in South African government bonds falling out of the global bond indices.




Wednesday May 24 2017
South Africa Inflation Rate Down To 2015 Low Of 5.3%
Statistics South Africa | Joana Taborda | joana.taborda@tradingeconomics.com

Consumer prices in South Africa rose 5.3 percent year-on-year in April of 2017, easing from a 6.1 percent increase in March and below market expectations of 5.6 percent. It is the lowest inflation rate since December of 2015, mainly due to a slowdown in prices of food and transport.

Year-on-year, prices rose at a slower pace for food and non-alcoholic beverages (6.7 percent from 8.7 percent in March), the lowest since December of 2015; miscellaneous goods and services (7.3 percent from 7.5 percent); transport (4.6 percent from 7.7 percent); alcoholic beverages and tobacco (2.9 percent from 3.2 percent); household contents (2.8 percent from 3.2 percent); recreation and culture (3.6 percent from 3.7 percent) and clothing and footwear (4 percent from 4.5 percent). In contrast, inflation was steady for housing and utilities (5.7 percent) and education (7 percent) and increased for restaurants and hotels (6.4 percent from 6.1 percent) and health (6.5 percent from 6.2 percent). 

Annual core inflation which excludes cost of food, non-alcoholic beverages, petrol and energy fell to 4.8 percent from 4.9 percent. It is the lowest rate since January of 2013.

On a monthly basis, consumer prices edged up 0.1 percent, below 0.6 percent in March and lower than expectations of 0.4 percent. The only upward contribution came from prices of miscellaneous goods and services (prices up 0.4 percent). In contrast, cost of food and housing and utilities was flat and transport declined 0.3 percent. 




Friday April 28 2017
South Africa Trade Surplus Widens In March
South African Revenue Service | Yekaterina Guchshina | yekaterina@tradingeconomics.com

South Africa posted a trade surplus of ZAR 11.4 billion in March of 2017 compared to a downwardly revised ZAR 4.78 billion surplus in February. Exports advanced 16 percent, due to higher sales of precious metals and stones, vehicles & transport equipment, machinery & electronics and mineral products. Imports went up 8.9 percent, driven by purchases of machinery & electronics, vehicles & transport equipment, optical photographic products, and original equipment components.

Exports rose to ZAR 101.2 billion, mainly driven by higher sales of vehicles & transport equipment (19 percent), machinery & electronics (27 percent), precious metals and stones (33 percent), chemicals (17 percent) and mineral products (8 percent). Major destinations for exports were Germany (8.8 percent of total exports), China (8.7 percent), the US (6.2 percent), India (4.6 percent) and Botswana (4.4 percent).

Imports increased to 87.79 billion, as purchases went up for: machinery & electronics (18 percent), vehicles & transport equipment (41 percent), optical photographic products (30 percent) and original equipment components (12 percent). Imports came mainly from China (15.3 percent of total imports), Germany (14.7 percent), the US (8.6 percent), India (5.2 percent) and Saudi Arabia (4.9 percent) 

Excluding trade with neighboring Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland, the country posted a trade surplus of ZAR 3.5 billion in March, compared to ZAR 1.6 billion gap in February. 




Wednesday April 19 2017
South Africa Inflation Rate Down To 6-Month Low
Statistics South Africa | Joana Taborda | joana.taborda@tradingeconomics.com

Consumer prices in South Africa increased 6.1 percent year-on-year in March of 2017, lower than a 6.3 percent rise in February and below market expectations of 6.3 percent. It is the lowest inflation rate in six months due to a slowdown in food inflation.

Year-on-year, prices rose at a slower pace for food and non-alcoholic beverages (8.7 percent from 9.9 percent in February); clothing and footwear (4.5 percent from 4.8 percent) and restaurants and hotels (6.1 percent from 6.4 percent). In contrast, inflation was steady for recreation and culture (3.7 percent) and accelerated for housing and utilities (5.7 percent from 5.6 percent); miscellaneous goods and services (7.5 percent from 7.4 percent); transport (7.7 percent from 7.2 percent); alcoholic beverages and tobacco (3.2 percent from 2.8 percent) and education (7 percent from 4.6 percent).

Annual core inflation which excludes cost of food, non-alcoholic beverages, petrol and energy fell to 4.9 percent from 5.2 percent. It is the lowest rate since January of 2013.

On a monthly basis, consumer prices rose 0.6 percent, below 1.1 percent in February and boosted by cost of housing and utilities (0.9 percent); education (7 percent); food and non-alcoholic beverages (0.5 percent) and alcoholic beverages and tobacco (1.7 percent).


Friday March 31 2017
South Africa Trade Balance Swings To Surplus in February
South African Revenue Service | Deborah Neves | deborah.neves@tradingeconomics.com

South Africa posted a trade surplus of ZAR 5.22 billion in February of 2017 compared to an upwardly revised ZAR 11.22 billion gap in January. Exports advanced 9.4 percent, due to higher sales of vehicles & transport equipment and machinery & electronics while imports went down 9.7 percent, mainly due to lower purchases of machinery & electronics.

Exports rose to ZAR 87.8 billion mainly driven by higher sales of vehicles & transport equipment (79 percent), machinery & electronics (25 percent), base metals (10 percent), plastics & rubber (33 percent) and prepared foodstuff (17 percent). Major destinations for exports were China (8.6 percent of total exports), Germany (7.9 percent), the US (6.7 percent), Japan (5.7 percent) and India (4.6 percent).

Imports declined to 82.6 billion, as purchases went down for: machinery & electronics (-18 percent), chemical products (-10 percent), plastic & rubber (-22 percent), base metals (-15 percent), vegetable products (-25 percent) and vehicles & transport equipment (-6 percent). Imports came mainly from China (18.3 percent of total imports), Germany (11.8 percent), the US (6.4 percent), Saudi Arabia (5.5 percent) and India (4.9 percent). 

Excluding trade with neighboring Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland, the country posted a trade gap of ZAR 1.2 billion in February. 


Thursday March 30 2017
South Africa Leaves Key Rate At 7%
South African Reserve Bank | Deborah Neves | deborah.neves@tradingeconomics.com

The South African Reserve Bank kept its benchmark repo rate on hold at 7 percent at its March 30th meeting, in line with expectations. Policymakers said the inflation outlook has improved although the exchange rate became a risk due to recent political uncertainties. Yet, policymakers added that the end of the tightening cycle has been reached.

Excerpts from the statement issued by Lesetja Kganyago:

The inflation forecast of the Bank has improved, reversing most of the deterioration seen at the previous meeting of the MPC. Headline inflation is now expected to return to within the target range during the second quarter of 2017 compared with the fourth quarter previously, and to remain within the range for the rest of the forecast period. CPI inflation is expected to average 5.9% for the year, compared with 6.2% in the previous forecast, while the forecast for 2018 has moderated from an average of 5.5% to 5.4%. The forecast period has been extended to 2019, with an expected average of 5.5% for the year.

This improvement is mainly due to a more appreciated exchange rate assumption. Despite the recent depreciation, the current level of the rand is still consistent with the exchange rate assumption in the forecast. Although the international oil price 3 assumption remains unchanged, the exchange rate is expected to lead to lower petrol price inflation, and is reflected in a downward revision to the assumption for administered prices. The forecast for core inflation is marginally lower than before at an average of 5.4% in 2017, and unchanged at 5.2% in 2018. An average core inflation of 5.3% is expected in 2019.

The domestic growth outlook remains weak following the negative growth recorded in the fourth quarter of 2016. The 2016 annual GDP growth of 0.3% is likely to have been the low point of the growth cycle, and a mild recovery is expected over the forecast period. The Bank’s forecast for GDP growth has been revised up by 0.1 6 percentage points in both 2017 and 2018, to 1.2% and 1.7%, with growth of 2.0% forecast for 2019.

Since the previous MPC meeting the inflation outlook has improved. However, the risk to the inflation forecast has been affected by the reaction of the exchange rate to the current elevated levels of political uncertainty. At current levels of around R13.00 against the US dollar, the exchange rate is still moderately stronger than the level implied in the exchange rate assumption in the forecast. However, the rand is likely to react further to unfolding developments until a greater degree of certainty and confidence is restored.

The MPC is of the view that we may have reached the end of the tightening cycle. However the Committee would like to see a more sustained improvement in the inflation outlook before reducing rates. This assessment may however change if the inflation outlook and the risks to the outlook deteriorate.



Wednesday March 22 2017
South Africa Inflation Rate Slows To 6.3% in February
Statistic of South Africa | Deborah Neves | deborah.neves@tradingeconomics.com

Consumer prices in South Africa rose 6.3 percent year-on-year in February of 2017, following a 6.6 percent gain in January, matching market expectations. It was the lowest inflation rate since September of 2016, as prices rose less for food and non-alcoholic beverages and household contents and services.

Year-on-year, cost increased less for: food and non-alcoholic beverages (9.9 percent from 11.4 percent in January), household contents and services (3.4 percent from 4.2 percent), alcoholic beverages and tobacco (2.8 percent from 3.5 percent), clothing and footwear (4.8 percent from 5.1 percent) and miscellaneous goods and services (7.4 percent from percent 7.7 percent).

Additional upward pressure came from: transport (7.2 percent from 6.7 percent), housing and utilities (5.6 percent, the same pace as in January), recreation and culture (3.7 percent, at the same pace as in January) and restaurants and hotels (6.4 percent from 6.2 percent).

On a monthly basis, consumer prices went up 1.1 percent after a 0.6 percent gain in a month earlier. Cost rose faster for miscellaneous goods and services (5 percent from 0.8 percent in January), health (3.8 percent after being flat in the previous month) and continued to rise for food and non-alcoholic beverages (0.7 percent from 1.6 percent) and transport (0.9 percent from 1.5 percent).

The core inflation which excludes prices of food, non-alcoholic beverages, petrol and energy fell to 5.2 percent from 5. percent in the previous month. It was the lowest core inflation since December of 2015.


Tuesday March 07 2017
South African GDP Unexpectedly Shrinks 0.3% in Q4
Statistics South Africa | Deborah Neves | deborah.neves@tradingeconomics.com

The South African economy contracted an annualized 0.3 percent on quarter in the three months to December of 2016, compared to an upwardly revised 0.4 percent growth in the previous quarter and missing market consensus of a 0.5 percent expansion. It was the first contraction since the March quarter of 2016 driven by mining and quarrying and manufacturing industries.

The largest negative contributor was the mining and quarrying industry, which decreased by 11.5 percent and contributed -0.9 percentage point. This was largely the result of lower production in coal, gold and 'other' metal ores (including platinum). Manufacturing decreased by 3.1 percent  mainly due to lower production in the manufacturing of food and beverages, petroleum, chemical products, rubber and plastic products and motor vehicles, parts, accessories and other transport equipment. The agriculture, forestry and fishing industry declined by 0.1 percent. It marks the eighth consecutive quarter of contraction due to severe droughts and falling production of horticulture products.

In contrast, trade, catering and accommodation went up 2.1 percent and finance, real estate and business services rose by 1.6 percent and each contributed 0.3 of a percentage point to growth. Increased activity was reported for financial intermediation, auxiliary activities and real estate services. The transport, storage and communication industry expanded 2.6 percent and contributed 0.2 of a percentage point, driven by land freight transportation and communications services. In addition, general government services grew by 0.9 percent and personal services rose 1 percent. The electricity, gas and water industry grew by 2.4 percent, largely due to an increase in electricity consumed in the fourth quarter. The amount of water distributed decreased, mainly driven by continued dry conditions and water restrictions in most parts of the country.

Year-on-year, the economy grew by 0.7 percent, the same as in the previous three months and above market expectations of 0.6 percent growth.

Considering full 2016, the GDP advanced 0.3 percent slowing from a 1.3 percent expansion in 2015. Growth was mainly driven by finance, real estate and business services (1.9 percent compared to 2.8 percent in 2015); general government services (1.4 percent compared to 0.8 percent in 2015) and wholesale, retail and motor trade; catering and accommodation industry (1.2 percent compared to 1.4 percent in 2015). Both manufacturing and construction increased 0.7 percent each (-0.2 percent and +1.7 percent respectively in 2015). In contrast, the mining sector slumped 4.7 percent (+3.9 percent in 2015) and agriculture shrank 7.8 percent (-6.1 percent in 2015).




Tuesday March 07 2017
South Africa Annual GDP Growth Beats Expectations
Statistics South Africa | Joana Taborda | joana.taborda@tradingeconomics.com

The South African economy expanded 0.7 percent year-on-year in the last three months of 2016, the same as in the previous quarter and above market expectations of 0.6 percent. A recovery in agriculture and stronger growth in trade, finance, real estate, business and government services drove the expansion, offsetting contraction in mining, manufacturing and utilities.

Agriculture rose 2.4 percent, first expansion in nearly two years, following a 5.2 percent drop in the previous period. In addition, stronger growth was reported in trade, catering and accommodation (1.1 percent compared to 0.7 percent in Q3); finance, real estate and business services (1.8 percent compared to 1.7 percent) and government services (2.2 percent compared to 1.1 percent). 

In contrast, expansion slowed in construction (0.2 percent compared to 1 percent in Q3) and personal services (1.1 percent compared to 1.5 percent) while contraction was reported in mining (-3.1 percent compared to -0.1 percent ), utilities (-3.2 percent compared to -2.1 percent) and manufacturing (-0.7 percent compared to +0.5 percent). 

On a quarterly basis, the GDP contracted an annualized 0.3 percent, compared to expectations of a 0.5 percent growth. 

Considering full 2016, the economy advanced a meager 0.3 percent, below a 1.3 percent expansion in 2015, mainly due to contraction in mining (-4.7 percent compared to +3.9 percent in 2015) and agriculture (-7.8 percent compared to -6.1 percent in 2015). In contrast, both manufacturing and construction increased 0.7 percent each (-0.2 percent and +1.7 percent respectively in 2015). Growth was mainly driven by finance, real estate and business services (1.9 percent compared to 2.8 percent in 2015); general government services (1.4 percent compared to 0.8 percent in 2015) and wholesale, retail and motor trade; catering and accommodation industry (1.2 percent compared to 1.4 percent in 2015). 




Tuesday February 28 2017
South Africa Trade Balance Swings To Deficit in January
South African Revenue Service | Deborah Neves | deborah.neves@tradingeconomics.com

South Africa posted a trade deficit of ZAR 10.81 billion in January of 2017 compared to an upwardly revised ZAR 12.41 billion surplus in December and below market forecasts of a ZAR 16 billion deficit. Imports jumped 12.5 percent, mainly due to higher purchases of equipment components and machinery & electronics. Exports went down at a faster 14 percent, due to lower sales of vehicles & transport equipment and mineral products.

Imports rose to ZAR 91.4 billion, as purchases rebounded for: equipment components (149 percent), machinery & electronics (12 percent), base metals (48 percent), chemical products (21 percent), plastic & rubber (41 percent) and textiles (53 percent). Meanwhile, vehicles & transport equipment (-34 percent) and mineral products imports (-12 percent) went down. Imports came mainly from China (19.9 percent of total imports), Germany (11.6 percent), the US (5.4 percent) Saudi Arabia (4.7 percent) and India (4.1 percent). 

Exports declined to ZAR 80.6 billion mainly driven by lower sales of vehicles & transport equipment (-32 percent), mineral products (-10 percent), machinery & electronics (-25 percent), precious metals & stones (-7 percent), prepare foodstuff (-27 percent), chemical products (-12 percent) and base metals (-6 percent). Major destinations for exports were China (12 percent of total exports), the US (6.5 percent), Germany (6.4 percent), Japan (4.6 percent) and Botswana (4.4 percent).

Excluding trade with neighboring Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland, the country posted a trade gap of ZAR 17.6 billion in January.