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Europe, Forex

South Africa’s rand falls on weak retail sales data; stocks inch up

(Updates rand to reflect afternoon trade, adds stocks)

JOHANNESBURG, Sept 15 (Reuters) – The South African rand fell on Wednesday as a drop in retail sales added to evidence that riots and tight COVID-19 restrictions dealt the economy a severe blow at the start of the third quarter.

At 1550 GMT, the rand traded at 14.4525 against the dollar, roughly 0.9% weaker than its close on Tuesday, when it also slid.

Retail sales contracted 0.8% year on year in July and by 11.2% month on month.

More than 300 people died and thousands of shops were looted as some of the worst violence of the post-apartheid era erupted soon after the arrest of former president Jacob Zuma in July.

Capital Economics said the retail numbers, coupled with poor July manufacturing figures last week, raised the prospect that the economy could contract over the third quarter as a whole, derailing a recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Against this backdrop, the central bank is unlikely to be in a rush to follow its peers elsewhere in the emerging world and raise interest rates,” it said in a research note.

JPMorgan told clients on Tuesday that several factors made the rand look vulnerable, including a deterioration in key terms of trade.

Johannesburg-listed stocks inched up on Wednesday, but slowing Chinese factory output and retail sales kept gains in check as elsewhere on global equities markets.

The fortunes of some heavyweight South African companies such as tech investor Naspers, luxury goods maker Richemont and mining firms are inextricably linked to China.

Trading on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange was subdued for much of the day but two key indices ended in positive territory: the blue-chip Top-40, which closed up 0.2% at 58,230 points, and the All-share index, which ended up 0.13% at 64,385 points. (Reporting by Alexander Winning and Promit Mukherjee Editing by Mark Potter)

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