Bloomberg News

South Africa Retail Sales Growth Quickens on 30-Year Low Rate

November 17, 2011

Nov. 16 (Bloomberg) -- South African retail sales growth unexpectedly accelerated to 8.3 percent in September as the Reserve Bank kept the benchmark lending rate at a 30-year low to support the economy as global growth weakens.

Retail sales increased from a revised 7.7 percent in August, the Pretoria-based Statistics South Africa said on its website today. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 12 economists was for a 6.5 percent increase. Sales rose 1.8 percent from a month earlier.

The Reserve Bank, led by Governor Gill Marcus, has kept the repurchase rate at 5.5 percent for a year to help spur consumer spending, which makes up about two-thirds of expenditure in the economy. A rebound in the economy in the third quarter may add to expectations policy makers will keep the key rate unchanged at its next meeting on Jan. 19.

“There is still an underlying upward trend,” Jean- Francois Mercier, an economist at Citigroup Inc. in Johannesburg, said in a telephone interview before the data was released. “It is an argument against cutting further, because it shows how the economy is showing a bit of resilience and there is no need for stimulus.”

Faster growth in manufacturing and retail sales may indicate the economy is rebounding after expanding 1.3 percent in the second quarter, the slowest pace in almost two years. Vehicle sales increased 18.9 percent in October from a year ago, an industry group said on Nov. 2.

The government cut its forecast for growth this year to 3.1 percent from 3.4 percent, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said last month in his mid-term budget speech.

Marcus said yesterday the bank will take “appropriate” action if necessary to support the economy.

“Monetary policy will maintain its focus on achieving the inflation target over the medium term, but will remain sensitive to the domestic economic situation,” she said.

--With assistance from Simbarashe Gumbo in Johannesburg. Editors: Nasreen Seria, Gordon Bell

To contact the reporter on this story: Andres R. Martinez in Johannesburg at amartinez28@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net


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