Disappointment as current account deficit widens
Expectations were that the deficit would narrow, but it has widened in the second quarter despite a bigger trade surplus
In spite of expectations of an improvement, SA’s current account deficit continued to widen in the second quarter of 2017 — to 2.4% of gross domestic product (GDP) from 2% the previous quarter. According to the Reserve Bank’s quarterly bulletin, released on Thursday, SA had a trade surplus for the third consecutive quarter.
The surplus widened to R64.6bn in the second quarter of 2017, from R57.4bn in the first, thanks to a faster increase in the value of exported gold and merchandise goods compared with imports.
Trade volumes rose in the second quarter. Despite the improvement in the trade balance, the shortfall on the services, income and current transfer account continued to widen, from R91bn in the first quarter of 2017 to R110bn in the second quarter. In the period 2012-16, SA had one of the largest current account deficits among emerging markets, with the shortfall often exceeding 6% of GDP.
The deficit narrowed in 2016 due to an improved trade balance.
The Bank said on Thursday: “Although the net inflow of capital on SA’s financial account of the balance of payments declined from the first to the second quarter of 2017, the shortfall on the current account was mainly financed through net portfolio investment flows.” Compared with the same period last year, the deficit narrowed marginally from 2.6% of GDP.