renjith krishnan

Johannesburg - South Africa's trade deficit narrowed to 2.7 billion rand ($298 million) in December from 7.94 billion rand in November as imports fell sharply on a month-on-month basis, the revenue service said on Thursday.

December exports decreased by 9.8 percent over the previous month while imports slid by 15.8 percent, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) said.

Economists surveyed by Reuters last week expected a trade shortfall of 2.5 billion rand.

The data is volatile and often difficult to predict.

Imports of machinery, electrical appliances, equipment components and products from the chemicals and related industries were down on the month, while exports of base metals, vessels and aircraft also fell.

The cumulative deficit for 2012 amounted to 117.7 billion rand compared with a 16.9 billion rand shortfall the previous year, SARS said. - Reuters