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South Africa's rand falls on risk aversion, stocks steady

(Updates prices, adds analyst)

JOHANNESBURG, March 22 (Reuters) - South Africa's rand fell on Friday, alongside other emerging-market currencies, after disappointing economic data from the euro zone added to concerns of a slowdown in global growth and drove investors away from riskier assets.

Gains in gold stocks failed to lift the main indexes as stocks mirrored weakness in global markets.

At 1545 GMT, the rand traded at 14.4600 per dollar, 1.72 percent weaker than its New York close on Thursday.

Developing market currencies fell after weak data from Europe reaffirmed fears about global growth, wiping out much of the support the Federal Reserve provided earlier in the week with its accommodating monetary policy.

Locally, concerns over power utility Eskom continued to weigh on sentiment with the cash-strapped state firm carrying out eight straight days of nationwide electricity cuts on Friday as it struggles with generation capacity shortages.

Caution also prevailed among investors ahead of a Moody's sovereign rating review scheduled for next week.

Moody's is the only one of the "big three" agencies to rate South Africa at investment grade. South Africa is rated "junk" by S&P Global Ratings and Fitch.

"The ZAR exchange rates next week are likely to reflect the growing nervousness in the run-up to the rating decision. The risk of a rating downgrade seems to us to be only partially priced in so far. Here the market could be caught on the wrong foot," Commerzbank analyst Elisabeth Andreae said in a note.

"If the agency only downgrades the rating outlook to negative, this should also increase the depreciation pressure on the rand, especially when risk sentiment is weakening."

In fixed income, the yield on the benchmark government bond due in 2026 was flat at 8.75 percent.

Stocks, meanwhile, traded little changed on risk-off sentiment, with the Johannesburg All-Share index at 56,107 points and the Top-40 index at 49,792.

Among the decliners, clothing and homeware retailer Mr Price led the bourse lower, falling 5.71 percent to 181.03, while investment firm Brait weakened 4.87 percent to 23.85.

Gold stocks were the bright spark on the bourse as they benefited from safe-haven demand in times of risk-off sentiment.

AngloGold Ashanti climbed 6.75 percent to 205.83, while Harmony Gold gained 4.46 percent to 29.27 and Gold Fields rose 5.83 percent to 59 rand. (Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Nqobile Dludla Editing by Mark Heinrich)

2019-03-22 18:29:16

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