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Rand firms, banks top blue-chip index

Bonds move in step with stronger rand.

The rand firmed against the dollar on Friday, supported by a pick up in risk-taking, while banks topped the blue-chip index after Morgan Stanley raised their target prices.

At 1539 GMT, the rand traded at 13.60 per dollar, 0.87% firmer than its New York close of 13.71 on Thursday.

The rand also found support from a weaker dollar as concerns about a prolonged US government shutdown, at a time when global growth is already slowing, weighed on the greenback.

The dollar index, a gauge of its value versus six major peers, fell 0.58% to 96.037.

“The rand began the week on the backfoot after the IMF trimmed its global growth forecasts. This prompted risk-averse investors to opt for the safety of the greenback,” said economists at NKC African Economics in a note.

“However, the rand remained resilient, despite volatile US dollar movements, recovering earlier losses to post a second consecutive weekly gain.”

In fixed income, bonds moved in step with a stronger rand, with the yield on the benchmark government bond due in 2026 dropping 10 basis points to 8.71%.

In the equities market, banks topped the gainers on the Top-40 blue chip index after Morgan Stanley raised target prices for Standard Bank, Absa group, Firstrand Ltd and Nedbank Group Ltd.

The banks index climbed 2.51%, hitting an 8-1/2-month high.

Standard Bank rose 3.69% to R194.94, Absa gained 2.56% to R180, Firstrand climbed 1.57% to R70.61, while Nedbank was up 2.90% to R288.27.

The Johannesburg All-share index has been under pressure throughout the week due to concerns of a weaker global economic outlook and ongoing uncertainty over the US-China trade war.

“That said, stronger performing Asian stock markets provided impetus to local equity prices,” economists at NKC African Economics said.

The all-share index ended the week 0.77% stronger, while the top-40 index closed 0.88% firmer.

On the downside, food and beverage company AVI Ltd was the biggest decliner, closing 8.68% after it reported a marginal rise in half-year group revenue, blaming continued pressure on consumer spending. 

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