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Rand steady as US-China optimism offsets weak data

The rand has enjoyed a strong start to 2019

South Africa’s rand held steady on Thursday, as disappointing economic data were offset by market optimism over US-China trade tensions.

At 1420 GMT, the rand traded at R13.89 versus the US dollar, 0.2% weaker than its previous close.

A South African business confidence index fell last month, while manufacturing growth slowed to 1.6% in November, data showed on Thursday.

Those figures supported the view that growth in Africa’s most industrialised economy slowed in the final three months of 2018 after a particularly strong third quarter, when the economy exited recession.

Underpinning investor sentiment, China said on Thursday that it had made progress on “structural issues” in talks on ending a multibillion-dollar trade dispute with the United States.

The rand has enjoyed a strong start to 2019, gaining more than 3% against the dollar, which has been dragged lower by signs that the pace of US monetary tightening will slow.

But analysts warn the rand remains vulnerable to global risk factors like Brexit, as well as domestic issues including possible credit ratings downgrades and political uncertainty in the lead up to this year’s national election.

On the bourse, the benchmark JSE Top 40 index was barely changed at 47,164 and the broader All-share index inched up 0.09% to 53,271.

In fixed income, the benchmark 2026 government bond was marginally stronger on Thursday as the yield fell 0.5 basis point to 8.775%. 

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