S.Africa's rand steady against dollar, stocks gain
By Stella Mapenzauswa and Gugulakhe Lourie
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's rand was little changed from last week's closing levels against the dollar on Monday, with central bank intervention helping stem gains in the currency despite support from stronger commodity prices.
Government bonds retreated slightly, with the market treading cautiously -- particularly in the case of longer-dated paper -- ahead of Wednesday's 2011/12 budget speech, while stocks snapped a four-day losing streak, boosted by gold shares.
At 1549 GMT the rand traded at 7.1535 to the greenback, barely moved from Friday's close at 7.14 but off Monday's strongest level of 7.1196.
"The rand has traded a little bit stronger (but) we did see a bit of the hand of Gill (Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus) at about 7.14," said Brigid Taylor, head of institutional sales at Nedbank Capital.
"I think a lot of the market is very nervous about the fact that they know the Reserve Bank is in there ... It just slows down the momentum to further rand strength. I think 7.10 at the moment is pretty bottom-ish for now."
Government bonds sold off slightly ahead of the budget, although traders saw a possible recovery after Wednesday's budget if Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announces a narrower deficit as expected.
The yield on the 2015 added one basis point to 7.685 percent and that for the longer-dated 2026 was up 2.5 basis points at 8.86 percent.
The government will aim for a budget deficit of 4.5 percent of gross domestic product for the fiscal year ending March 2012, from an estimated 5.3 percent in the previous year, economists polled by Reuters last Friday said.
Foreigners have dumped local bonds this year, reversing a trend seen over the last two years when foreign inflows helped the rand appreciate about 25 percent.
Data from JSE exchange on Monday showed foreigners have sold a net 5.6 billion rand of bonds to date this year compared with net purchases of 3.5 billion over the same period in 2010.
The JSE Top-40 index of blue chips bounced 0.94 percent to end at 29,569.03 on Monday, while the broader All-share index climbed 0.9 percent to 32,806.67.
"Gold shares are really driving the market at the moment," Ferdi Heyneke, a fund manager at Afrifocus Securitries, said.
Harmony Gold starred amongst the blue-chips, jumping 6.28 percent to 84.49 rand while rival Gold Fields climbed 3.77 percent to 124.40 rand.
Other miners also rose, with AngloGold Ashanti up 3.45 percent to 351.74 rand and platinum producer Lonmin adding 1.11 percent to 215.26 rand.
Papermaker Mondi increased 2.19 percent to 62.95 rand after posting a fourfold surge in annual profit. Truworths, South Africa's biggest listed clothing retailer, rose 1.97 percent to 66.79 rand after it reported a 19 percent rise in first-half profit.Mon, 21 Feb 2011
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