There’s good news and bad news in the latest trade data, which show a higher-than-expected trade surplus of R5.94bn in August. This is the seventh consecutive month of surplus and the good news is that SA has now run a cumulative trade surplus of R43.5bn for the first eight months of 2017. That’s a big swing from the deficit of R13.7bn recorded over the same period a year ago. The turnaround from deficit to surplus had already helped to narrow the deficit on the current account of the balance of payments, from 3.3% in 2016 into the 2% range in the first half of 2017, and the latest figures should continue that trend in the second half and into 2018, with economists predicting further improvements in the trade balance in 2018. The current account is a broader measure than the trade balance, which includes cross-border payments for services as well as interest and dividend flows, but the trade balance is the big swing factor, so a surplus is helpful. That is particularly so given that...

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