Trade conditions get tougher and tougher
Trade conditions deteriorated further in July, possibly another sign of tougher economic times.
The SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry's survey showed its trade activity index had fallen to 45 points last month, the lowest level so far this year.
"Trade conditions are characterised by volatility ranging from optimism to negativity as data reflects an uncertain economic environment - notably with sales and new orders," Sacci said.
Trade activity has declined steeply since the first quarter. In March the index was still on 58 points.
Waves of negative data have moved policy-makers to rein in their growth expectations for the year.
The National Treasury and Reserve Bank lowered their forecasts last month.
The bank also cut the interest rate to relieve consumers and boost spending, mostly because inflation has remained within its target.
Businesses, however, have felt the bite of rising input costs.
"Although price pressures were easing over the last four months," Sacci said, "the cost pressures of especially administered prices are coming through despite weaker trade conditions that make it difficult to pass on rising costs."
Administered prices, which include electricity, water and other tariffs imposed by local, provincial and national authorities, rose by an average of 10% over the last year.
With electricity prices expected to rise further, many businesses have become less optimistic about the months ahead.
Sacci's own business confidence index, released last week, declined by four points from the previous month.
The latest quarterly index released by BER/FNB also showed that business confidence fell.
The trade expectations index of the trade conditions survey seemed to confirm this by declining to its lowest level so far this year, coming in at 54 points for July, down from 61 in June.
"Trade expectations for six months have deteriorated as the expectations are focusing beyond the next festive season," Sacci said.