The rand was little changed on Thursday following President Jacob Zuma’s annual state of the nation speech.
By 00:15 the rand was little changed at 13.3966 per dollar compared to Wednesday’s close of 13.3973, reversing some losses from earlier in the session as higher commodity prices lifted most emerging market currencies.
The rand touched a low of 13.4825 before regaining some ground as European traders came on line. The euro stretched a recent dip, triggered by lingering worries over coming elections in France.
The risk aversion helped to boost demand for the dollar, putting the rand under renewed selling pressure.
“The broader driver has been the dollar, as well as global jitters,” said ETM Analytics economist Jana van Deventer.
“Markets aren’t expecting anything concrete from tonight’s speech and we don’t see any game-changers on the economy. We doubt Zuma will give any hints on what Gordhan will say in the budget,” van Deventer said.
Finance Minister Gordhan is due to present his 2017 budget on Feb. 22.
On the stock market the benchmark Top-40 index firmed by 0.2% to 45,013 points while the All-Share index ticked up 0.19% to 51,904 points.
Shares were mostly unchanged in subdued trading as investors remained cautious ahead of Zuma’s State of the Nation Address (SONA).
“I expect there is a bit of nervousness about what is going on there. Unless anything major happens tonight out of SONA, in theory we should see a relaxed mood tomorrow going into Monday,” said Independent Securities trader Ryan Woods.
Among leading gainers Mr Price rose 3.7% to R162.53, Mediclinic was up 3.3% at R137.84 and Netcare strengthened by 2.4% to R32.27.
Group Five, meanwhile, dropped by 8.8% to R22.70 after flagging a profit fall of between 300-320 cents per share for the six months to Dec. 31.
In the fixed-income market, the yield on the benchmark 2026 bond shed 1.5 basis points to 8.8%.