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Rand inches up ahead of key data

President Ramaphosa is also due to present his third annual state of the nation address on Thursday.

The South African rand ended local trading slightly firmer on Monday, with dealers holding fire ahead of major economic data and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address in the coming week.

At 1500 GMT, the rand was 0.1% firmer at 15.03 per dollar, compared with Friday’s three-month low of 15.12 when the currency was hit by global concerns over the coronavirus outbreak and the resumption of local power outages.

Volumes were light, with traders waiting for unemployment, retail, manufacturing and mining production figures this week, as well as President Ramaphosa’s third annual speech at the opening of parliament on Thursday evening.

BNP Paribas chief economist Jeff Schultz said policymakers were beginning to say the “right things”, and investors would be looking to Ramaphosa’s speech for signs of policy alignment, clarity, and urgency.

“Before the coronavirus hit, it (the rand) was being driven by global liquidity dynamics. The Fed, the ECB, Bank of Japan, and even the People’s Bank of China continued to pump liquidity into the market and was supportive for high-yielding currencies like the rand.

“But it really comes down to policy.”

Bonds were weaker, with the yield on the 2030 government bond up 2 basis points to 8.89%.

On the stock market, the Top-40 index fell 0.76% to 51 007 points, while the broader all-share was down 0.75% to 56 847 points, with fuel-maker Sasol, Aspen and miner GoldFields leading the decline.

Sasol dropped 5% to R222.17, hit by tanking global crude prices linked to the virus scare and weaker Chinese oil demand.

Brent crude slipped to 1.1% on Monday, and is down 20% this year.

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