The R5.9 billion surplus compares with July’s revised R9.3bn positive balance, the SA Revenue Service said. The median of six economists’ estimates was for R2.1bn,
The surplus eases pressure on the current account, the broadest measure of trade in goods and services, while also boosting the rand, which has gained 1.8% to the dollar this year despite political turmoil that has seen the nation lose investment-grade status on its foreign-currency debt and as the economy suffers through the second recession in almost a decade.
Exports rose 11% to R103.4bn from a month earlier, while imports were 16% higher at R97.4bn, the revenue service said. Shipments of mineral products climbed 21% from the previous month, while imports of the same goods advanced 65%, it said.
The current account deficit narrowed to 3.3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) last year and the Treasury said in February the shortfall will probably be 3.9% this year.
The trade surplus for the year so far is R43.5bn, compared with a R13.7bn deficit in the same period 12 months earlier.
The rand has this year been the most volatile among major and emerging-market currencies tracked by Bloomberg.
On September 21, the central bank raised its growth forecast for 2017 to 0.6% from 0.5%, while keeping its 2018 projection at 1.2%. Last year, GDP expanded at the lowest annual rate since a 2009 recession last year.
The rand strengthened 0.1% to R13.499 per dollar by 2.09pm in Johannesburg on Friday. The yield on rand-denominated government bonds due December 2026 fell 7 basis points to 8.56%.
Monthly trade figures are often volatile, reflecting the timing of shipments of commodities such as oil and diamonds.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE