Private sector credit demand in free fall

SOUTH Africa's private sector credit demand fell for a sixth month in a row in March, data showed on Friday, pointing to still weak consumer demand despite lower interest rates.

SOUTH Africa's private sector credit demand fell for a sixth month in a row in March, data showed on Friday, pointing to still weak consumer demand despite lower interest rates.

Reserve Bank data showed credit demand declined by a more-than-expected 0,69percent year-on-year compared with a 0,57percent contraction in February.

Annual money supply growth accelerated, though, to 1,55percent from 0,14percent, beating forecasts.

Spending is slowly picking up after more than a year's slump on a cumulative 550 basis points in interest rate cuts since December 2008, but high debt levels and big job losses during last year's recession continue to weigh on households.

The central bank surprised markets with a half percentage point cut in the repo rate to 6,5percent last month - a three-decade low - but its Governor Gill Marcus has signaled that that may have been the last in the cycle.

Analysts said the data supported the view that rates will remain steady for some time.

"It looks like a mixed bag. Private sector credit extension speaks directly to consumer demand which remains extremely weak," said George Glynos, managing director of market analysts ETM.

"But all in all this data remains benign, remains supportive of weak inflation going forward, of rates remaining low for a while to come and for rand strength."

Market reaction was muted with Marcus' comment on the rates outlook made last week taking much of the sting out of data releases. - Reuters

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