JOHANNESBURG – The rand slumped to its weakest in three weeks on Thursday as employment data from the United States showed a sharp drop in job losses, bolstering bets of a rate hike by the Federal Reserve next week.
On the stock market, mining firms dragged the bourse lower.
By 23:50 the rand had weakened 1.64% to 13.3459 per dollar, its weakest level since Feb. 14 following an overnight close of 13.1425 in New York.
The rand was on the backfoot early on in the session as U.S. initial jobless claims remained below 300,000 for a 105th straight week, pushing the chances of a rate increase to near certainty.
The unit had outperformed most emerging market currencies in the first half of the week as steady commodity prices boosted demand, prompting traders to predict some profit-taking.
From a technical view, the 13.00 resistance mark again proved a difficult barrier as it failed to hold on to two breaches this week, opening the door for steeper losses.
Bonds also weakened, with the yield on the benchmark paper adding 7 basis points to 8.73 percent.
On the bourse, the benchmark Top-40 index shed 0.8% to 43,953 points while the All-Share index also slipped 0.8% to 50,910 points.
Anglo American and BHP Billiton were the biggest losers among the blue-chips as the prices of most industrial metals fell and copper sunk to a two-month low.
Anglo shares were down 3% at R186.25 and BHP Billiton declined 2.9% to R202.37.
Gold miners also lost ground after the bullion price hit a 5-week low on US rate hike expectations.
Shares in Gold Fields fell 1.2% to 39.57 and Sibanye Gold retreated 0.8% to R24.90.
Drugmaker Aspen Pharmacare was one of the Top-40’s best performers after posting a 6 percent rise in half-year profit and a 13 percent revenue jump as it reported its first sales in China.
“The China strategy fits with the general Aspen approach of acquiring specific drugs and using their sales force to cross sell multiple products,” said 36One Asset Management analyst Shmuel Simpson.
Aspen shares rose 1.2% to R277.85.