ECONOMIC WEEK AHEAD: Level of economic transactions will provide a window on lockdown landscape
Sacci’s trade conditions survey for April will cover a full month of level 5 conditions
A small pool of data is expected out this week, as Stats SA continues to navigate the effect of the coronavirus lockdown with limited surveys and delays to publications.
But figures on economic transactions and trade conditions from industry bodies and market participants could provide insight into how badly the economy fared amid the full lockdown.
The BankservAfrica economic transaction index (Beti) for April is due out on Wednesday and is likely to provide insight into economic activity during the period of full lockdown.
The index — which gauges economic activity using low-value card and ATM transactions and electronic funds transfers processed by SA’s largest automated clearing house, BankservAfrica — showed a decline in March even though the lockdown came into effect on March 27.
During March the Beti declined 3.3% — its sharpest decline since August 2008 on a seasonally adjusted basis. On an annual basis the decline was a more muted 0.4% at the time of the March print, but BankservAfrica warned a much worse decline could be expected in April.
A survey of spending activity released by BankservAfrica last week appears to confirm a bleak April lies ahead. During the 38 days ending May 3, daily transactions dropped 49% from the corresponding period in 2019.
Stats SA is expected to publish data for the utilisation of manufacturing production capacity by large enterprises.
The quarterly data will cover the start of 2020, reflecting conditions before the lockdown introduced restrictions on all but essential services manufacturing.
The economy was already in a technical recession in the last half of 2019 and the outcome of the quarterly manufacturing survey from the Bureau for Economic Research (BER) suggests that conditions remained poor in the first quarter of 2020 given weak demand and electricity supply disruptions, Investec economist Kamilla Kaplan said in a note.
“The lockdown measures were imposed towards the end of March and essentially affected three working days. As such the measures will not have a material effect on capacity utilisation,” she said.
Most of the lockdown effect will be visible in the second quarter, when level 5 of lockdown occurred throughout April, with the manufacture of essential products permitted.
From the start of May level 4 lockdown measures allowed the expansion of manufacturing activity — with the government expanding activity to roughly 30% of the sector.
“The full effect on manufacturing capacity utilisation will depend on the length of time that the level 4 restrictions will be in place and if lockdown measures will be eased further from there,” Kaplan said.
The SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) is expected to release its trade conditions survey for April on Thursday. In the March survey, expectations for the coming six months took a big knock into negative territory as businesses began to grapple with the implications of the pandemic.
“The national lockdown is creating unrecoverable costs and may incur further financial losses due to further compromised trade conditions,” the chamber warned at the time.