Despite the rand’s weakness in the second quarter, exporters did not benefit “notably” from an acceleration in global growth and a pick-up in world trade during the quarter.
The Reserve Bank’s quarterly bulletin, released yesterday, showed that revenue from exports was wiped out by the rising import bill as international crude oil prices climbed. As a result, the deficit on the trade account increased from R78.2 billion in the first quarter to R96.6bn in the second. The figures are seasonally adjusted and multiplied by four to show an annual trend.
Stanlib chief economist Kevin Lings said: “There is still no clear indication, in terms of the most recent trade data, that the weaker rand is helping to improve the trade balance.”
The currency weakened from about R8.54 to the dollar at the start of the year to R10.39 to the dollar three weeks ago. It was bid at just under R10 a greenback at 5pm yesterday.
The disappointing export performance was due largely to “lower international commodity prices and lacklustre growth in the physical quantity of gold exports”, the bulletin said.
Fortunes of the other mining sectors were mixed. Coal exports contracted due to a scheduled 12-day rail maintenance “shutdown”. But volumes of iron ore, chrome, manganese ore and nickel exports rose.
Manufacturing exports contracted. The bulletin said: “A marked decline was recorded in the subcategory for vehicles and transport equipment.”
However, agricultural exports “advanced firmly, buoyed by higher exports of maize, due in part to tight maize stocks in the US, the world’s largest supplier of maize”.
On the other leg of the current account – the services account reflecting transactions such as transport and insurance – the gap between payouts and receipts widened from R112.7bn to R119.6bn, seasonally adjusted and annualised.
The deficit on the two legs combined, which make up the current account, widened from R190.9bn to R216.2bn.