Trade conditions as reflected by the Trade Activity Index was marginally higher in May 2019 compared to in April 2019. The seasonally adjusted for May increased by 1 index point on April 2019 and was also 1 index point higher than in May last year. A harsh environment in the wholesale, retail, hotel and catering sector is evident by a 0.6% decline in the first quarter of 2019 compared to the first quarter of 2018. Foreign trade also contracted in the first quarter.
Respondents listed the lack of policy implementation, industrial protests, uncertainty during the election period, less disposable household income, high unemployment, insecurity on the power supply, and high fuel prices as pressing issues in May. The election results however improved expectations for better economic conditions and the business climate in short to medium term. The Trade Expectations Index improved from 39 in April to 49 in May.
Although pressure on input prices remained, the weak present trade conditions caused further pressure on sales prices. The expectations for lower sales prices persisted despite input costs that are expected to continue rising over the six month scope of the survey. 78% of respondents anticipate rising input costs. Supplier delivery improved slightly while sales volumes and new orders are expected to advance close to and into positive territory.
The employment sub-index improved between April and May and expectations for appointments in the current trade environment over the ensuing six months also increased. These are encouraging indicators for the months ahead.