Massive Trade Surplus Fourth Month in a Row

South Africa has recorded yet another trade balance surplus in the fourth month in a row. Now the May trade has tallied, a surplus of ZAR 9.50bn was announced by the SA Revenue Services (SARS)on Friday. The year-to-date trade balance surplus – in other words from January 1 to May 31 2017 – of R19.52bn is an improvement on the deficit for the comparable period in 2016 of R13.29bn, SARS said in a statement.

The R9.50bn BLNS-included trade balance surplus for May 2017 is attributable to exports of R105.02bn and imports of R95.52bn. Exports increased from April 2017 to May 2017 by R13.99bn (15.4%) and imports increased by R9.46bn (11.0%) over the same period. Exports for the year-to-date – January 1 to May 31 – grew by 6.1% from R438.01bn in 2016 to R464.78bn in 2017. Imports for the year-to-date of R445.25bn are 1.3% less than the imports recorded in January to May 2016, namely R451.30bn.

In wake of the good results the Rand firmed further, both against the US dollar and on a trade-weighted basis over the 12 months to May 2017, suggesting an increase in trade volumes. “The cumulative surplus for the first five months of the year rose to R19.52bn compared with the R13.29bn deficit over the same period in 2016,” analysts agree, and “Exports should be propped up by improving global demand and higher commodity prices during 2017, while imports will be contained by weak economic growth. Trade figures will remain highly volatile due to both global and domestic factors.” “Whilst the trade balance is only one component of the current account, it shows that the real economy is adjusting in spite of GDP growth forecast being revised downwards in 2017 as consumer and business sentiments fail to recover from the current lows due heightened political and policy uncertainty,” Standard Bank head of commercial banking Karl Gotte said on Friday.

“The business landscape, which ought to be in the forefront of attracting investment and contributing to the overall economic growth, is faced with challenges in getting the required investments to avert recession due to suppressed business confidence and plunging investor sentiments. This however, is not the time to panic but time for businesses to be leaders and create a value chain of diplomats that work together to explore alternative opportunities and penetrate in markets that exist in the global business landscape.

On a year-on-year basis, the ZAR 9.50bn trade balance surplus for May 2017 is a deterioration from the surplus recorded in May 2016 of R13.10bn, SARS said. Exports of ZAR 105.02bn are 5.8% more than the exports recorded in May 2016 of ZAR 99.26bn. Imports of ZAR 95.52bn are 10.9% more than the imports recorded in May 2016 of ZAR 86.16bn.

April 2017’s trade balance surplus was revised downwards by R0.11bn from the previous month’s preliminary surplus of R5.08bn to a revised surplus of R4.97bn as a result of ongoing Vouchers of Correction (VOCs), according to SARS. A VOC is a document used in SA shipping to amend any details that has already been filed with customs for a particular shipment.

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