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Rand falls after poor data; equities flat

Mining, manufacturing data update shows weak economy.

The rand fell on Thursday, hurt by subdued appetite for emerging market assets and data showing that output in two key industrial sectors of mining and manufacturing remained weak, while the stock market ended flat.

At 1510 GMT the rand traded at R14.48 per dollar, 0.5% weaker than its previous close.

Emerging market stocks and currencies slipped on Thursday as concern over slowing growth reared its head again after data showed that Chinese industrial output growth hit a 17-year low in the first two months of 2019.

Locally, figures from Statistics South Africa showed mining output contracted for the sixth time in eight months in December, led by declines for gold, iron ore and coal production.

Manufacturing output, meanwhile, came close to a standstill, expanding 0.3% on a yearly basis and contracting 2% from November, its worst month-on-month performance in a year.

“Today’s figures suggest that the economy weakened at the start of the year,” said John Ashbourne, senior emerging markets economist at Capital Economics.

“This run of weak data may in combination with low inflation put pressure on the South African Reserve Bank to cut its key policy rate.”

South Africa’s economy, Africa’s most industrialised, grew 0.8% in 2018, with the Treasury forecasting 1.5% expansion in 2019.

However, the nationwide electricity blackouts and subdued spending by cash-strapped consumers and investors are viewed as obstacles to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plans to revive growth.

Power utility Eskom resumed power cuts on Thursday after a breakdown at its mammoth Kusile power plant project exacerbated a shortfall in generating capacity.

In fixed income, the yield on the 2026 bond rose 4 basis points to 8.76%.

On the stock market, the Top 40 index was largely unchanged, easing by 0.2% to 49,485 points, while the broader all-share index ended flat at 55,789 points.

Shares in Exxaro Resources rose 4.3% to R156.49 after the mining company said its full-year earnings climbed 7%, boosted by higher coal prices and the absence of one-off transactions a year earlier. 

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