South Africa’s Rand On The Backfoot, Stocks Slip

SA-RAND---CopySouth Africa’s rand fell against the dollar on Wednesday amid investor uncertainty over whether the central bank will raise interest rates this week.

Stocks opened 0.13 percent lower at 46,687 points on South Africa’s blue-chip Top-40 index.

At 0730 GMT the rand had slipped 0.19 percent to 14.3000 per dollar, surrendering the gains of the previous session as the greenback climbed to a seven-month high.

U.S. interest rates are expected rise before year-end.

Government bonds were flat, with the yield on paper due in 2026 unchanged at 8.55 percent.

The market is divided over whether South Africa’s Reserve Bank will leave benchmark rates unchanged at a policy meeting on Thursday. According to a Reuters poll, 21 of 35 economists predict rates will be held at 6.00 percent with the other 14 forecasting a hike. 

The rand has been on the ropes for most of 2015, losing over 20 percent against the dollar, but hiking rates to underpin the currency risks slowing an already struggling economy.

“The problem with rand weakness is that it starts a vicious circle, where investors choose to withdraw rand bond and equity investments to avoid further currency loss, which in turns drives further rand weakness,” said economist at Investec Annabel Bishop.

South Africa’s statistics agency publishes inflation and retail sales data on Wednesday, with consumer prices expected to have ticked up but only slightly. That would support the case for delaying any rate hike to 2016.

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