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Rand retreats further from 3-week high, stocks gain

Richemont was the biggest gainer among the blue chips.

JOHANNESBURG – The rand fell from a 3-week high against the U.S. dollar on Wednesday as the greenback rose and traders closed positions ahead of a national holiday.

Stocks gained for a third consecutive session, buoyed by firms with strong earnings outside their home market.

At 1605 GMT, the rand traded at 13.3175 per dollar, 2 percent weaker from its New York close on Tuesday.

The rand got off to a good week, hitting a 3-week high of 12.800/dollar, buoyed by increased risk appetite after the market’s preferred candidate won the first round of the French presidential election.

But global market attention was now turning to U.S. President Donald Trump’s promised announcement on tax cuts, supporting a reheating of the dollar-positive “Trumpflation” trades that dominated the end of last year but have waned since.

Traders also cashed in gains ahead of a national local holiday on Thursday.

“It’s not anything specific, but more of a technical rebound. Anything below 13.30 is still within the range,” said currency trader at Rand Merchant bank Jim Bryson.

“We’d have to see a break below 12.8800 to see an momentum on the downside,” Bryson said.

Government bonds also weakened, and the yield for the benchmark instrument due in 2026 rose 4 basis points to 8.73 percent.

On the bourse, the benchmark Top-40 index was up 1 percent at 44,984 points, while the broader All-share index firmed 0.8 percent to 53,680.

Luxury-goods group Richemont was the biggest gainer among the blue-chips, advancing 3.8 percent to 112.41 rand. The firm sells high-value items such as Cartier watches and Mont Blanc pens to the world’s wealthy, mostly outside South Africa.

South African companies with large exposure to foreign earnings are referred to as “rand hedges” by local traders as their shares often rise when the currency weakens against the dollar.

Steinhoff International, which has retail assets in Europe, Britain and the U.S., gained 3.3 percent to 68.99 rand.

“The rand is not really helping our resources, commodity prices have come down, but definitely helping the vanilla rand hedges like your CFR (Richemont), British American Tobacco, Reinet and those kind of things,” said BP Bernstein trader Vasili Tirasis.

Resource stocks were weaker, with Impala Platinum, which said it could cut jobs at one of its mines due to low prices and labour unrest, declining 2.7 percent to 42.90 rand. 

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