South Africa’s rand recovers slightly after torrid week

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s rand recovered on Friday after two days of heavy losses sparked by a bleak budget, benefiting from an uptick in other emerging market currencies and helped by local exporters selling dollars.

At 1520 GMT the rand was 0.7 percent stronger at 14.1400 per dollar, paring this week’s losses to around 3.4 percent after falling on each of the past four days.

South African assets have been pummelled this week by speculation that the country faces further credit rating downgrades as a result of the dismal state of its public finances.

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba shocked markets on Wednesday by flagging sharply weaker growth expectations, wider deficits and rising government debt in a closely watched budget speech.

A currency trader at Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) said the rand was helped on Friday by large South African firms selling dollars as they closed their books for the month.

A report that President Donald Trump is leaning toward Jerome Powell as his pick to head the U.S. central bank also tamed dollar strength on global markets and gave a boost to emerging market currencies.

“Still, the rand is in the middle of nowhere,” the RMB currency trader said. “It’s far from certain where the currency will trade next week.”

S&P Global and Moody’s are scheduled to review South Africa’s credit ratings next month, and all eyes are on whether they lower the country’s local-currency rating.

A one-notch downgrade by both agencies would lead to ejection of South Africa’s rand-denominated bonds from widely tracked global indices, heaping more pressure on the currency.

The yield on South Africa’s benchmark government bond due in 2026 edged up 1 basis point to 9.145 percent on Friday, reflecting slightly lower bond prices.

Stock indexes posted modest gains, with Buildmax jumping sharply after it hinted at a return of half-year earnings growth from a loss. Shares in the firm jumped 36.36 percent to 3 rand.

The Johannesburg All-Share index closed 0.24 percent higher at 58,714 points, while the blue-chip Top 40 index inched up 0.25 percent to 52,403 points.

The expression of interest from LafargeHolcim to South Africa’s cement producer PPC on a possible combination of some of its African assets, raised market hopes of a bidding war, sending PPC shares 2.41 percent higher to 6.80 rand.

(Reporting by Alexander Winning and Nqobile Dludla; Editing by James Macharia)

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