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#RandReport: Rand hits record low, Anglo leads stocks down

The rand hit a new low against the dollar, falling more than 1,2 percent after the central bank said.

FILE: An economic slowdown in China has also weighed on the terms of trade of commodity exporting countries like South Africa. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The rand hit a new low against the dollar on Tuesday, falling more than 1,2 percent after the central bank said the current account deficit had widened sharply in the third quarter.

Stocks ended lower, with Anglo American leading the decline after the mining giant suspended dividend payments until the end of 2016.

The rand softened to 14,7000 against the dollar, its weakest on record according to Thomson Reuters data, and was at 14,6900 by 1525 GMT, down 1,2 percent from Thursday's close.

Rand bears took the currency apart after the central bank said in its quarterly bulletin that the current account gap had widened to 4,1 percent of GDP in the third quarter from 3,1 percent in the second.

Stubbornly high deficits on the current account and national budget have made the rand more vulnerable than most of its peers this year as investors anticipating higher US interest rates sell off emerging market assets.

An economic slowdown in China has also weighed on the terms of trade of commodity exporting countries like South Africa, weakening their currencies.

"The deterioration in South Africa's current account deficit is unlikely to do the rand any favours this week as it continues to hit record lows against the dollar," BNP Paribas Securities analyst Jeffrey Schultz said.

The market woes extended to the local bourse, where Anglo American dropped 10,72 percent to 71,54 rand, a level not seen in more than a year, after it announced a business overhaul including a dividend pause and the sale of more assets to cope with a collapse in commodity prices.

A sharp fall in other major mining stocks such as BHP Billiton and Anglo American Platinum also dragged the benchmark JSE Top-40 index.

South African mining shares have fallen more than 40 percent this year, lagging a largely flat broader market, due to concerns about the health of the Chinese economy.

Data on Tuesday showed China's imports fell for the 13th consecutive month in November, exacerbating concerns about the broader economic outlook for the world's biggest consumer of metals.

"(Chinese) trade numbers for November suggested that their trade with the rest of world continued to shrink," said Michael Treherne, fund manager at Vestact in Johannesburg.

The JSE Top-40 index ended 1,66 percent lower at 44,151 and the broader All-share index shed 1,56 percent to 49,083.

Trade was robust, with more than 285 million shares changing hands, well above last year's daily average of 183 million.

In fixed income, government bonds were weaker across the curve, particularly at the shorter end.

The yield for the benchmark instrument maturing in 2026 was up one basis point at 8,835 percent, its highest in 22 months.