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Africa, Forex

South Africa’s rand weaker as risk rally fades, stocks soften

(Updates rand, bonds; adds stocks)

JOHANNESBURG, Jan 22 (Reuters) – South Africa’s rand weakened on Friday, as a rally in riskier assets driven by hopes of U.S. economic stimulus faded, while stocks also fell.

At 1440 GMT, the rand traded at 15.0600 versus the dollar, 0.77% weaker than its previous close. The decline was in line with other emerging market currencies including the Russian rouble and Turkish lira.

The rand has mainly moved on global factors recently, shrugging off a run of poor domestic data that points to lingering weakness in Africa’s most industrialised economy.

This week, retail sales and mining figures for November came in worse than expected.

On Thursday, the central bank kept its main lending rate unchanged, providing some support to the currency.

But analysts at Commerzbank said the rand remained vulnerable, after rising significantly in the last few months of 2020.

“The fragile economy and the high level of government debt, which continues to rise, limit further rand appreciation potential,” they said in a research note.

Shares on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) softened on concerns over a surge in coronavirus cases in China which forced the country to impose restrictions on travel and transport this week.

The benchmark all-share index fell 0.29% to 63,988 points while the bluechip top 40 companies index shed 0.14% to end at 58,886 points.

Friday’s fall was selectively cushioned as expectations that China’s travel restrictions will be extended drove gains in Chinese technology stocks, which would benefit from more online activity.

That in turn boosted Johannesburg index heavyweights Naspers Ltd and its subsidiary Prosus NV. Prosus holds over 30% stake in Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd, which owns China’s biggest messaging app WeChat.

Both the companies had gained over 50% last year led by a rally in Tencent.

Government bonds fell, as the yield on the benchmark 2030 issue increased 5.5 basis points to 8.775%. (Reporting by Alexander Winning, Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Promit Mukherjee; editing by John Stonestreet)

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