SA recorded a trade deficit of R13.08bn in January, which was better than expectations.

January’s deficit was attributable to exports of R88.68bn and imports of R101.76bn, data from Sars showed on Thursday.

The Bloomberg consensus was for a deficit of R14.5bn.

December’s surplus was revised down to R16.7bn from R17.17bn.

Since 2011, the January trade balance has consistently recorded a deficit, as local businesses look to replenish inventory levels.

The balance of trade is an indicator of the difference in value between the country’s imports and exports and dictates SA’s current account, which is indicative of SA’s trade with the rest of the world.

The figures are notoriously difficult to predict and analysts stress that it is important to look at trends.

The year-to-date (January 1 to January 31 2019) trade deficit is an improvement on the deficit recorded in 2018 of R27.44bn. This is due to the back of the decline in oil prices.