Rand Weakens with Overnight Loadshedding, and Risk of More Power Cuts on Friday

South Africa’s rand was weaker early on Friday after Eskom’s nationwide loadshedding (electricity blackouts) spooked investors and reignited worries about the economy.

A street money changer counts South African Rands in Harare, Zimbabwe, May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

At 0645 GMT the rand was down 0.23% at 14.7700 per dollar, compared with the previous session’s best of 14.6630.

Power firm Eskom implemented stage 2 power cuts, or load shedding, shaving off 2,000 megawatts from the national grid starting at 2000 GMT on Thursday evening until 0300 GMT on Friday.

The firm said it had lost three-generation units, pushing its emergency reserve capacity to “critical levels”.

Eskom added the risk of power cuts on Friday was high as the system remained severely constrained, and that load shedding on Friday could not be ruled out.

The rand had rallied on Thursday to its firmest since before a bleak Oct. 30 budget, mainly on the back of renewed hopes of a U.S.-China trade deal that helped the currency shrug off a dip in business confidence and a contraction in manufacturing.

The latest bout of nationwide blackouts come after repeated power cuts in February and March, which dragged the economy into contraction and pushed government to grant Eskom a $4 billion bailout on top of a $16 billion bailout spread over the next 10 years.

Bonds were also weaker, with the yield on the benchmark paper due in 2026 up 5.5 basis points to 8.455%.

A new Eskom CEO is expected to be announced within days.

(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Alex Richardson)