A worker takes a break from sorting avocados at a farm factory in Nelspruit in Mpumalanga province

South African business confidence drops to seven-month low in March

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's business confidence fell to a seven-month low in March, hurt by power cuts, higher electricity tariffs and slowing manufacturing production, a survey showed on Wednesday.

The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry's monthly business confidence index (BCI) fell to 91.8 in March from 93.4 in February, the business body said. The reading was the lowest since August 2018, when it was at 90.5.

Confidence in the South African economy has been hurt by policy and political uncertainty. Investors doubt President Cyril Ramaphosa can deliver reform before May's elections.

"The rand exchange rate against the major trading and investment currencies, interrupted electricity supply and electricity tariff increase, as well as slowing manufacturing output were the largest contributors to the negative trend of the BCI in March," the Chamber of Commerce said in a statement.

"The BCI reflects a depressed business climate that is dominated by concerns over continued difficult and uncertain domestic economic circumstances. The upcoming 8 May 2019 general elections add to this uncertainty."

This year, South Africa has seen its worst power cuts in several years, as the cash-strapped utility Eskom struggles with capacity constraints. Eskom has not imposed rolling blackouts this month, but it has warned the power system remains vulnerable.

(Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo, editing by Larry King)

First Published: 2019-04-10 12:03:39
Updated 2019-04-10 12:44:39

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