South Africa's rand firms after Moody's hints at ratings reprieve

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's rand strengthened against the dollar on Friday, putting it on track to end a week marked by the annual budget higher, after Moody's signalled the nation's spending plans didn't weaken its policy credibility.

The rand rose 0.36 percent to 13.9700 to the dollar by 0651 GMT compared with the previous day's close of 14.0200 in New York and the week's low of 14.3700 on the day of the budget.

On Thursday, Moody's, the last of the big three ratings agencies to maintain an investment grade on South Africa, said that the government's decision to raise its spending ceiling by 16 billion rand ($1.14 billion) did not weaken fiscal policy credibility.

Attention had turned to rating agencies' reaction to the budget, which included a bleaker outlook for economic growth and debt and a bailout for struggling state-run power firm Eskom, after concern it could prompt a downgrade.

But Nedbank analysts Mehul Daya and Walter de Wet wrote in a note on Friday that market reaction had been too negative.

"The main talking point in SA financial markets over the past couple of days has been the rand's ability to contain weakness and in fact strengthen after the 2019 National Budget," they said.

They added the budget had been presented in the "most credible form possible, which would mean SA could avert a credit downgrade by Moody's but we could still see a negative outlook."

Government bonds were also slightly stronger, with the yield on benchmark 2026 paper easing 0.25 basis points to 8.795 percent.

($1 = 13.9899 rand)

(Reporting by Emma Rumney; Editing by Shreejay Sinha)

2019-02-22 10:03:19

© 2019 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved. Reuters content is the intellectual property of Thomson Reuters or its third party content providers. Any copying, republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. "Reuters" and the Reuters Logo are trademarks of Thomson Reuters and its affiliated companies.