South Africa’s current account deficit narrowed to 4.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter of 2014 from a shortfall of 5.1% in the last quarter of 2013, the Reserve Bank said today.
“As a ratio of GDP, the deficit on the current account narrowed to 4.5%,” said the central bank in its June Quarterly Bulletin.
Market expectation was for the deficit to widen to 6.1%.
According to the bulletin, the annualised shortfall on the trade account widened to R75 billion in the first quarter from R45 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013.
“The deficit on the services, income and current transfer account with the rest of the world narrowed considerably on account of notably lower net dividend payments to non-resident investors. The contraction in the deficit on this account more than neutralised the deterioration in the trade balance,” noted the bulletin.
In reaction to the news, Nedbank economist said: “The improvement in the current account deficit was encouraging and it could narrow further during the remainder of this year as global conditions continue to improve. However, this will require a normalisation of production activity in the platinum sector and avoidance of further crippling disruptions in the local economy”.
Meanwhile, spending in the country showed growth of 2.7% in the first quarter of 2014.
“[In] contrast to the contraction observed in domestic production in the first quarter of 2014, real gross domestic expenditure switched from negative growth at an annualised rate of 3.6% in the fourth quarter of 2013 to positive growth of 2.7% in the first quarter of 2014,” the bulletin said.
According to the bulletin, the acceleration was brought about by a moderation in the destocking of real inventories, while growth in all the components of final demand lost some momentum over the period.
“The slower pace of inventory de-accumulation made the strongest contribution to growth in real gross domestic product in the first quarter of 2014.”
Growth in real final consumption expenditure by households moderated for the eighth time in nine consecutive quarters. It grew at 1.8% from an annualised 2% rate in the fourth quarter of 2013.
The ratio of household debt to disposable income edged down slightly to 74.5% from 74.6%.
“Growth in domestic demand is likely to remain lacklustre in the second quarter as household finances remain weak and general government is still committed to reducing the fiscal deficit and growth in the public sector wage bill over the medium term.
“Some improvement in household spending could be experienced during the second half of the year as the strike in the platinum mining sector ends. Firms will still be wary of expanding capacity aggressively in the current weak economic environment, while high input costs, persistent labour-related disputes in some of the key industries and general infrastructure constraints continue to hurt sentiment,” noted Nedbank. – SAnews.gov.za
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