July’s retail sales growth came in as expected on Wednesday, providing hope that economic activity is picking up despite a spate of recent disappointing data. Statistics SA reported on Wednesday that retail sales in July were 1.3% higher than in the same month in 2017, matching consensus forecasts. The highest annual growth rates were recorded in retailers of furniture, appliances and equipment, who saw sales growth of 6.9%, followed by clothing and footwear, which grew 3%. Sales of hardware, paint and glass declined 5.1%, while sales in specialised stores of food, beverages and tobacco fell 2.1%. Retail sales continue to be under pressure, with many analysts pointing to rising fuel costs and VAT increases that took effect in April. SA entered into a technical recession in the third quarter, with GDP contracting a surprise 0.7% during the period, surprising analysts. Higher fuel prices will have to be passed through at some point, both directly and indirectly, if the upwards fuel pr...

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