South African rand falls to 3-month low, stocks down

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The South African rand plunged to a three-month low against the U.S. dollar on Friday as a strong greenback weighed down emerging market currencies, while domestic power cuts and weak economic growth added to the pressure.

At 1500 GMT, the rand was 1.4% lower at 15.1100 per dollar, its weakest since Nov. 1.

“U.S. markets remain strong on the back of good economic data, while the rest of the world is on the back foot as concerns over the longer-term impact of the coronavirus weigh in risk appetite,” Andre Botha, senior currency dealer at TreasuryONE, said in a note.

“The rand, along with it’s EM (emerging market) peers are trading weaker on investor caution.”

The South African currency’s slide follows a torrid January, during which it lost around 8% against the greenback as fears about the global economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak triggered heavy a sell-off of emerging market assets.

The resumption of nationwide power cuts by South African state utility Eskom last week rattled the remaining rand bulls, while a slide in the business confidence index on Thursday further encouraged investors to sell the currency.

The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s monthly business confidence index slipped to 92.2 in January from 93.1 in December.

On the stock market, the Top-40 index fell 0.42% to 51,396, while the broader all-share was down 0.44% to 57,276.

In fixed income, the yield on the benchmark 2026 paper was up 4 basis points to 7.99%.