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South African rand, stocks see positive end to difficult year
JOHANNESBURG, Dec 31 (Reuters) - South Africa's rand and
stocks edged up in the final trading session of the year on
Monday buoyed by hints of progress in trade talks between China
and the United States, but that capped off a year of hefty
decline for both.
At 1303 GMT the rand traded at 14.3625 per dollar,
up 0.43 percent from its close of 14.4250 on Friday.
The main catalyst for the rand and other emerging market
currencies was the tariff war between Beijing and Washington,
although pressure on the dollar from fading expectations for
U.S. interest rate rises also helped.
The trade war between the world's top two economies has
unnerved financial markets and had a mixed impact on the rand,
which has lately benefited from signs of a thaw in hostilities
between the two countries.
On Sunday, U.S. President Donald Trump said a possible trade
deal between the United States and China was progressing well,
creating some demand for high-yield assets such as the rand,
which had lost ground to safe-haven assets at the end of the
For the year, the rand is down nearly 15 percent, making it
the fourth worst performer against the dollar, behind the
Argentine peso, Turkey's lira, and the Russian rouble.
Bonds opened firmer, with the yield on the benchmark paper
due in 2026 3 basis points lower at 8.865 percent.
Meanwhile, stocks closed higher in the day's shortened
trading session, with Johannesburg Stock Exchange's (JSE) Top-40
index up 0.5 percent to 46,726 points. The broader
all-share index rose 0.56 percent to 52,736 points.
Emerging market stock indexes were also benefiting from
tentative optimism around Sino-U.S. trade relations, but
investors remained cautious and trading volumes light.
Retailers including Spar Group, TFG and
Truworths were among the biggest gainers on the top-40
index, while telecoms giant MTN rose for a fourth day
after resolving a dispute with authorities in Nigeria, its
Investec led the declines, down 1.2 percent,
followed by British American Tobacco and petrochemicals
South African stocks struggled throughout 2018 with the
all-share index closing down 11 percent in its worst annual
performance in a decade.
(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana and Emma Rumney, editing by Larry
King and Jason Neely)
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