South Africa in first recession since 2009


miners south africa
Miners
take a break in a waiting area deep underground at Sibanye Gold’s
Masimthembe shaft in Westonaria, South Africa, April 3,
2017.

Mike
Hutchings/Reuters


South Africa slumped into its first recession since 2009.

The economy shrank by an annualized 0.7% in the first quarter
after contracting by 0.3% in the prior. 

That was below economists’ expectations of 1.0%
quarter-over-quarter annualized growth, according to the
Bloomberg estimate.

A technical recession is defined by two consecutive
quarters of economic contraction.

Perhaps most notably, these figures predate the
sacking
of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. In other words,
the data released Tuesday doesn’t include any potentially
negative economic effects from the domestic political drama.

“Gordhan was sacked on 31st March, so any hit to confidence and
output occurred in Q2,” said John Ashbourne, Africa economist at
Capital Economics, in a note. “But today’s data suggest that
things were much worse than we — or most analysts — had expected
before this latest shock.”

Moreover, the economic slump comes amid rapid growth in
agricultural and mining sectors, Ashbourne added. Agricultural
GDP rose by the fastest rate in over 10 years at 22.2%
quarter-over-quarter annualized.

“So it is impossible to blame today’s surprisingly bad result on
poor weather or variations in output from volatile sectors,” he
explained. “Instead, the slowdown in Q1 was due to much worse
results from usually stable consumer-facing sectors that had been
the key drivers of growth in recent years.”

At the end of March, South African President Jacob Zuma
reshuffled his cabinet, replacing ministers and deputy ministers,
including his respected finance minister, with mostly loyalists
and political allies. South Africans
went out to protest
.

Against the backdrop of all this, the country has been struggling
with sluggish economic growth for some time

One particularly grim data point has been the unemployment
rate, which has officially hovered around 25% for several years.
It climbed to 27.7% in the first quarter of 2017, making for the
highest
jobless rate
since the first quarter of 2004.
The
youth unemployment rate
 has been suspended at
an even higher figure.

The South African rand was down by 1.1% at 12.8473 per dollar at
8:16 a.m. ET.



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