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Rand falls after dismal data, stocks rise

Retail figures on Wednesday disappointed after Tuesday’s dismal unemployment number.
Rand loses its shine after weak economic data ahead of annual Sona. Image: Chris Ratcliffe, Bloomberg

South Africa’s rand fell against the dollar in late afternoon trade on Wednesday, giving up gains from earlier in the session, following a string of dismal economic data.

At 1530 GMT, the rand was 0.3% weaker at 14.87 per dollar, retreating after sailing to a session best of 14.73.

Data on Wednesday showed retail sales in December fell 0.4% year-on-year, lagging market expectations for an increase of 1.5%.

Read: Retail sales down in December

The disappointing retail figures came after data on Tuesday showing unemployment remained at an 11-year peak in the fourth quarter and manufacturing output for December shrank 5.9% year-on-year.

Mining output data will be released on Thursday before President Cyril Ramaphosa gives a speech opening parliament. He is expected to give details on government plans for ailing power utility Eskom.

“With government debt projections high and climbing in South Africa as a % of GDP, particular market focus will centre on Eskom,” Annabel Bishop, chief economist at Investec wrote in a note.

“Cosatu’s (labour union) recent proposition to use civil servants pension funds to purchase a major stake in Eskom’s debt, could alleviate some of the pressures on the sovereign debt trajectory, and so South Africa’s credit ratings profile.”

Read: Union takes legal step to stop Eskom pension plan

On the stock market, the Top-40 index rose 1.56% to 52 000. The broader all-share was up 1.34% to 57 744.

Shares in telecoms giant MTN Group jumped 6% to R88.10 after the company posted a 2019 profit jump of up to 50%.

Bullion miner Harmony Gold closed up 3.66% to R43.33 after AngloGold Ashanti said it would sell its remaining South African assets for about $300 million to Harmony.

AngloGold shares recouped some losses earlier in the day to close down 0.75% at R283.87 after headline earnings per share), the main profit measure in South Africa, for the year to December of 86 cents to 96 cents, up from 53 cents in 2018, missing market expectations.

“The minute you see a share come in a little lighter than what the market is pricing in, it gets hammered,” Independent Securities trader Ryan Woods said.

In fixed income, the yield on the 2030 government issue was up 1.5 basis points to 8.88%. 

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