South Africa’s Rand Crosses 14.00 Threshold and Stocks Gain

JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s rand firmed below the 14.00 threshold on Wednesday for the first time in six weeks as a softer dollar boosted investor appetite for emerging markets.

South African bank notes featuring images of former South African President Nelson Mandela (R) are displayed next to the American dollar notes in this photo illustration in Johannesburg August 13 2014. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

On the bourse, the financial and retail sectors topped the JSE after S&P Global Ratings stable economic outlook, while miner Sibanye-Stillwater took a blow after selling shares to service debt.

At 1500 GMT the rand had strengthened 1.01 percent to 13.9350 per dollar compared to its open of 14.0950, outperforming other emerging market currencies such as the Turkish lira and the Mexican peso.

The last time the rand traded below 14.00 was on Feb. 27.

The dollar has softened because of weak economic data, fresh global trade tensions between the United States and Europe, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cutting its global growth forecast.

“The carry trade for the month has been very active. There’s a lot of foreigners buying bonds in South Africa and that’s helping the rand outperform other currencies for the day,” said Treasury One chief currency dealer Wichard Cilliers.

The rand’s gains may be short-lived however with the current boost caused by mainly external factors, Cilliers said.

In equities, the Johannesburg All-Share index gained 0.73 percent to 58,261 points, while the Top-40 index rose 0.87 percent to 52,003 points.

Clothing retailer Mr Price rose 5.96 percent to 208.00, Shoprite was up 4.22 percent to 169.20, while Nedbank gained by 4.1 percent to 265.44.

Comments from ratings firms S&P and Moody’s were good news and were keeping the equity market in positive territory, said Maudi Lentsoane, trader at Lehumo Investments.

“A stronger rand means lower inflation, which means more money for South Africans as the interest rates are not going to be high, which is positive for the retailers and the financial sector,” said Lentsoane.

On the downside, Sibanye-Stillwater declined nearly 16 percent to 14.29. Fellow platinum miner Lonmin, which Sibanye is looking to acquire, also took a knock, contracting 12.85 percent to 13.63.

“They sold [their shares] at a discount so the market is essentially pricing in that offer, and marking the shares down to around where the new shares were issued,” said Greg Katzenellenbogen, a trader at Sanlam private wealth.

(Reporting by Naledi Mashishi and Onke Ngcuka; Editing by Frances Kerry)