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S.African rand slides as dollar jumps on U.S. data, stocks fall

(Updates rand to reflect afternoon trade, adds stocks)

JOHANNESBURG, Sept 16 (Reuters) – The South African rand fell to more than two-week lows on Thursday as the dollar jumped on a surprise rebound in U.S. retail sales, extending this week’s rand losses to more than 2%.

At 1550 GMT, the rand traded at 14.5750 against the dollar, around 1.1% weaker than its previous close and trading near its weakest since Aug. 31.

The U.S. currency was up over 0.4% against a basket of peers.

After three weeks of strong gains, the rand has reversed direction since Tuesday, buffeted by disappointing domestic retail data and a recommendation from investment bank JPMorgan to sell the currency.

Market attention will soon turn to next week’s interest rate decision by South Africa’s central bank, as well as local consumer price index (CPI) data.

The bank has left its repo rate on hold at 3.5% for its past six meetings, diverging from some other emerging market central banks which have raised rates in response to inflationary pressures.

The Reserve Bank’s monetary policy committee will announce its rate decision on Sept. 23, with CPI data out the day before.

Indexes on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange lost heavily on Thursday, pulled down by mining companies which fell on the back of drop in commodity prices, especially of platinum group metals and gold.

The retreat in commodity prices in the last two months have instilled fears that a bull run in the shares of mining companies, which are an important export revenues earner, is coming to an end. This in turn impacts the outlook on the local economy.

“It is a cocktail of negative things that is hurting the market,” said Greg Davies, trader at Cratos Capital.

Weak Chinese data, lower commodity prices and fall in U.S. shares have all contributed towards Thursday’s fall, he said.

The benchmark all-share index dropped 1.66% to end the day’s trading at 63,314 points. The blue-chip index of top 40 companies fell by 1.94% to 57,098 points.

The index is now where it was at the beginning of the year and has lost almost 10% in the last one month. (Reporting by Promit Mukherjee and Alexander Winning Editing by Mark Potter)


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