South Africa’s rand strengthened on Friday as escalating geopolitical tension between the United States and North Korea drove up demand for safe-haven assets like gold and platinum, lifting the currencies of commodity exporters.
At 06:40 GMT, the rand was 0.11% firmer at 13.4450 per dollar compared with a close of 13.4600 overnight in New York.
Gold prices held steady after touching their highest in over two months. The spot price of platinum jumped 0.3 percent as global risk-aversion pulled traders into metals.
The rand remains near a one-month low hit on Tuesday as President Jacob Zuma survived a no-confidence vote, and is set to remain under pressure with Moody’s releasing its review of the country’s debt later in the session.
South Africa’s sovereign debt was cut to sub-invesment by Fitch and S&P Global Ratings in April after Zuma fired Pravin Gordhan as finance minister. In June, Moody’s cut is rating to one notch above junk with a negative outlook .
All three agencies have cited political interference in economic policy and the dismal growth outlook as the key threats to the country’s rating. The Reserve Bank estimates growth of only 0.5% in 2017.
Bonds were weaker, with the yield on the benchmark paper due in 2026 up 3.5 basis points to 8.635%.
Stocks were set to open lower at 07:00 GMT, with the JSE securities exchange’s Top-40 futures index down 1%.