Thursday, August 23, 2018

At 1538 GMT, the rand traded 0.95% weaker at 14.3075 per dollar, trimming losses after dropping more than 1.5% in early trade.


JOHANNESBURG - The rand fell against the dollar on Thursday, hurt by comments by US President Donald Trump on Pretoria’s land reform plans and a stronger greenback, while stocks ended slightly higher.

Trump said on Twitter he had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to study South African “land and farm seizures” and the “killing of farmers”, prompting Pretoria to accuse Trump of stoking racial divisions.

At 1538 GMT, the rand traded 0.95% weaker at 14.3075 per dollar, trimming losses after dropping more than 1.5% in early trade.

“Mr Trump’s tweet last night about South Africa land redistribution, (and) a ...stronger dollar combined with domestic concerns will not be considered all that fantastic for local financial markets,” said Standard Bank’s chief trader Warrick Butler.

Trump’s tweet appeared to be a response to a Fox News report on Wednesday that focused on South Africa’s land issue and murders of white farmers.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said on 1 August that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) was forging ahead with plans to change the constitution to allow the expropriation of land without compensation.

Whites still own most of South Africa’s land, more than two decades after the end of apartheid.

The planned land policy has unnerved some investors already concerned about the country’s weak economic growth, ballooning public debt and policy missteps.

In June Moody’s - the last of the top three credit agencies to rate the country’s debt at investment grade - said uncertainty around land and mining reforms risked limiting investment.

“It is becoming more important than ever, that the ANC and government move to clarify how the land reform programme will be carried out,” Rand Merchant Bank analyst Mpho Tsebe said.

Government bonds firmed, with the yield on benchmark paper due in 2026 down 4 basis point to 8.945%.

On the bourse, the blue-chip Top-40 index was up 0.13% to 52,132 points, while the all-share index was 0.14% higher at 58,205 points.

Shares in South African precious metals producer Sibanye-Stillwater rose 2.15% after it swung into profit for the half-year. It was boosted by the inclusion of its US platinum assets, acquired in May 2017, and higher platinum group metals prices.

Retailers Woolworths and Massmart bucked the market after they reported profit declines that were affected by muted consumer spending.

Woolworths shares fell 1.84%, while Massmart fell 0.23%.

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