(Updates with analyst comment in fourth paragraph.)
Dec. 29 (Bloomberg) -- South Africa’s trade gap narrowed to 8 billion rand ($981 million) in November as exports of mineral products and chemicals climbed.
The shortfall eased from 9.6 billion rand in October, the Pretoria-based South African Revenue Service said in an e-mailed statement today.
South Africa posted a trade gap in eight of the past 11 months as higher crude prices and a weaker rand boosted import costs, while Europe’s debt crisis undermined demand for exports. That’s helped to widen the current account deficit, the broadest measure in trade in goods and services, to an 18-month high of 3.8 percent of gross domestic product in the third quarter, according to central bank data.
“We expect the trade deficit to widen in 2012 as imports remain relatively high, supported by infrastructural spending,” Dennis Dykes, chief economist of Nedbank Group Ltd., South Africa’s fourth largest bank, said in an e-mailed report to clients. “Exports are likely to be hurt by a slowdown in global growth.”
The rand has slumped 19 percent against the dollar this year, the worst performer of 16 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg. The currency gained as much as 1 percent to 8.1217 today.
Shipments of chemical products surged 59 percent last month, helping boost total exports by 12 percent to 68.5 billion rand, the revenue service said. Precious metal exports jumped 26 percent in November from the previous month, it said.
Imports rose 8.1 percent to 76.5 billion rand in the same period, with purchases of mineral products such as oil rising 21 percent, machinery imports gaining 12 percent and vegetable imports surging 52 percent.
Trade figures are often volatile, reflecting the timing of shipments of commodities such as oil and diamonds.
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