Trade conditions remained in negative territory in December, with the Trade Activity Index, compiled by the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci), having remained below the neutral 50-point level, at 44.
The index had, however, improved by one point in December.
"All components of trade activity declined in December and this is partly ascribable to seasonal factors due to business-to-business trade usually receding during the holiday period.
"In general, respondents mentioned that inferior look-alike products sell at discounted prices offered by competitors that do not comply with regulatory standards, thereby creating unfair trade practices. Tax and tariff burdens weighed heavily as service provided by local governments fell short.
"Erratic energy supply due to load-shedding, cable theft, and the costs of fuel and alternative energy supply, affected the viability of traders surveyed," Sacci noted.
It added, however, that expectations for the next six months looked better than the December trade conditions, with the seasonally adjusted Trade Expectations Index staying at 46.
Meanwhile, the employment subindex improved to 45 in December, from 40 in November, as a result of the hiring of temporary personnel.
"Employment prospects will continue to be under pressure and in negative territory over the next six months with the subindex on employment expectations remaining at 38 in December," Sacci said.