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Economy in Brief

South Africa Industry and Retail Trade Show Growth
by Carol Stone October 11, 2006

Basic industry data covering the winter months in South Africa seems to portray a fairly healthy economy. Retail sales volumes were up 1.0% in July and 11.5% from July 2005. Current price data show the biggest year-on-year increases in "general dealers", clothing and hardware stores; these were all up well more than 15%, but the history for individual store types extends back only through last year, so it's hard to judge the relative performances.

Factory sales have also been buoyant, with monthly increases of 1.8% in August, 1.3% in July and 3.4% in June. These are in current prices and put sales up 15.1% from August 2005. Interestingly, though, factory output hasn't been this strong. It fell in July and August, by 0.4% and 0.7%, respectively, and is "only" 4.1% ahead of the year-ago month. Industries with strong sales include petroleum refining, metal products, electrical machinery and furniture. But at least the petroleum must relate to its high prices, since output of petroleum products was down 6.1% in August from the year earlier. Separately, production of wood and metal products and electrical machinery was up more strongly than the total, as was motor vehicles and parts.

While many countries stand at various stages of development, South Africa's emphasis on machinery and metal products, as well as motor vehicles, gives us the impression that it is far along an industrial track. A quick comparison with GDPs of other countries shows that while, converted to US dollar terms, South Africa is about half the size of Turkey and moderately smaller than Poland, it is considerably larger than the Czech Republic and Hungary.

Data on South Africa are contained in Haver's EMERGEMA database. For many countries of the world, Haver has translated GDP into current and constant US dollars to facilitate international comparisons, such as we just made.

South Africa, All Seas Adj. Aug 2006 July 2006 June 2006 Year Ago 2005 2004 2003
Retail Trade, Volume, 2000=100 -- 140.5 139.1 126.0 128.7 119.7 115.1
  % Change -- 1.0 -0.1 11.5 7.5 4.0 5.7
Manufacturing Sales, Bil.Rand 83.20 81.76 80.77 72.30 85.23 80.22 73.87
  % Change 1.8 1.3 3.4 15.1 6.2 8.6 -1.1
Manufacturing Production, 2000=100 119.2 120.0 120.5 114.5 113.8 109.8 105.4
  % Change -0.7 -0.4 1.7 4.1 3.6 4.2 -1.9
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