South Africa’s manufacturing output expanded by 3.8% y/y in March, the best reading since September 2014, following a revised 0.4% y/y contraction in February, preliminary data from Statistics South Africa showed on May 12.
The growth was driven mainly by an 8.2% rise in the output of the food and beverage industry (contribution of 1.9pp), a 5.5% increase in manufacturing of petroleum, chemical products, rubber and plastic products (contribution of 1.2pp), and a 13.3% rise in the automotive industry’s production (contribution of 1.0pp).
On a seasonally adjusted monthly comparison basis, factory output rose 1.2% in March, after a revised 0.8% growth in February.
In Q1, the manufacturing production narrowed by a seasonally-adjusted 0.6% q/q, with six of the 10 manufacturing divisions reporting declines. It was by 0.4% higher y/y.
The total sales of manufactured products at current prices grew 6.3% y/y to ZAR161bn ($13.3bn) in March, reversing a revised 2.1% y/y decline in the previous month, Stats SA said. On a seasonally adjusted basis, manufacturing sales rose 4.2% m/m in March, but were by 3.1% lower q/q in Q1.
The manufacturing industry, which accounted for 13.7% of South Africa’s total economic output, rebounded to a 9.5% q/q growth in Q4 after three consecutive quarters of contraction affected by strikes, but remained in the contraction zone (-1.6%) on a y/y comparison basis. The sector is now troubled by frequent power outages, which affect manufacturers’ ability to produce, as well as by weak global economic activity, which weighs on exports, although the weaker rand (and stronger dollar) stimulates exports.
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