SOUTH Africa recorded a trade deficit of R1,889billion for its trade with non-Southern African Customs Union trade partners in April, after a surprise R457,8million surplus in March, figures from Sars showed yesterday.
Though high, the deficit is not the worst seen. A record R17,4billion deficit was recorded in January last year.
The R1,889billion deficit was better than the market expectations of R2,3billion.
"These figures are better than market forecasts. What is disconcerting is that both exports and imports decreased, with imports declining faster," said Freddie Mitchell of Efficient Group.
Mike Schussler of economists.co.za said he had expected the figure.
"If one thinks that South Africa has a strong currency and commodity prices are high, a small deficit can be expected every month. And I regard anything under R2billion as small," he said.
A surplus had not been expected in April due to a mild deterioration in the terms of trade, with the rand-oil price growth exceeding platinum and gold prices.
Other factors, including the volcanic ash cloud in Europe, are believed to have played a role in reversing the surplus as it may have led to fewer exports to Europe.
The data is expected to have little impact on markets, according to Isaac Matshego of Nedbank.
"This is a large deficit. What is worrying is the sharp fall in exports. The May figure could reveal the same due to recent strikes," he said.
Stanlib's Kevin Lings also forecast a further deterioration of the trade account.
Customs and Excise said mineral exports decreased by R1,443billion, while exports of precious and semi-precious stones and metals declined by R2,5billion.
Exports of base metals and articles decreased by R745million, and that of machinery and electrical appliances decreased by R443million. Exports of vehicles, aircraft and vessels decreased by R1,2billion.
Imports of mineral products decreased by R1,611billion, while that of machinery and electrical appliances decreased by R526million.
Imports of vehicles, aircraft and vessels decreased by R777million, while imports of original equipment components increased by R48million.
A deficit of R25,8billion was recorded in 2009 from the audited deficit of R71,6billion in 2008. - I-Net Bridge