South Africa’s Rand Finally Firmer, Trade Hopes Lift Stocks to 3-Week High

JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s rand firmed against the U.S. dollar in late trade on Friday, as hopes for a rapprochement on trade between Beijing and Washington calmed investors’ nerves.

A street money changer counts South African Rands
REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

The currency had suffered through much of August, sliding nearly 6% on fears of a downgrade to junk by Moody’s, and concerns about the trade dispute between the two major buyers of South Africa’s exports.

But the mood lifted across world markets after U.S. President Donald Trump said some trade discussions were taking place with China on Thursday, with more talks scheduled.

At 1520 GMT the rand was 0.77% firmer at 15.2075 per dollar. Stocks climbed to a three-week high.


The Johannesburg All-share index gained 1.56% to 55,259 points, while the benchmark Top-40 index rose 1.56% to 49,320 points, to levels last seen on Aug. 13.

Insurer Discovery closed 6.64% firmer to 115.17 rand as investors looked beyond a warning that full-year profits would fall.

Greg Davies, trader at Cratos Capital, said the firm’s trading statement likely gave some comfort to investors who had been concerned after analysts had flagged accounting assumptions at Discovery that they considered optimistic.

Retailer Massmart continued to gain after it outlined plans on Thursday to arrest a decline in profits and margins, and closed up 5.39% at 45.17 rand.

In fixed income, the yield on the benchmark 10-year government issue rose 3.5 basis points to 8.23%.

(Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Onke Ngcuka)