(Updates with latest level throughout)
JOHANNESBURG, Nov 10 (Reuters) - South Africa's rand
slipped to a one-year low on Friday as fears of a
ratings downgrade resurfaced on reports President Jacob Zuma is
preparing to introduce free tertiary education, which would put
added pressure on public finances.
Stocks were weaker as fixed-line operator Telkom
The rand was 0.58 percent weaker against the dollar at
14.3225 as of 1540 GMT, after earlier being down more than 1
percent to a session low of 14.4200 - a level last hit on Nov.
21 last year.
Philip Pearce, a currency dealer at TreasuryOne, said
traders were betting that the rumours about higher education
spending - as reported in South African newspapers this week -
"If free education goes through the market thinks ratings
agencies will definitely downgrade South Africa," he said.
South Africa's government was considering a range of budget
cuts that could include slashing social grants for the most
vulnerable in order to pay for free tertiary education, a
newspaper reported on Friday.
South Africa is staring down the barrel of ratings
downgrades after the Treasury last month widened budget deficit
estimates and lowered this year's economic growth forecast.
S&P and Moody's are scheduled to review South Africa on Nov.
Government bonds also weakened, with the yield for the
benchmark paper rising 6 basis points to 9.355
On the stock market, the benchmark Top-40 index
retreated 0.2 percent to 53,424 points, while the broader
All-share index slid 0.1 percent to 59,776 points.
Telkom reported a drop in half-year profits and cut its
dividend as a result of reduced spending by corporate and
government customers, sending its share price sharply
Shares in Telkom, in which the state owns a stake of around
40 percent, were down 6.4 percent at 50.50 rand.
ArcelorMittal South Africa was the biggest loser on
the bourse after it flagged lower steel demand in the current
quarter as it updated the market on its performance in the three
months to end-September.
The steelmaker's shares fell 8.9 percent at 5.97 rand.
(Reporting by Alexander Winning and TJ Strydom; Editing by Joe
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