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Rand lifted by Chinese growth; stocks flat

At 1600 GMT the rand was 0.1% firmer at 14.0150 per dollar, with reduced trading volumes ahead of the Easter public holidays amplifying moves.

Picture: Pixabay.com.

JOHANNESBURG - The rand firmed on Wednesday as an unexpected rise in economic growth in major trading partner China boosted demand for emerging market currencies worldwide.

At 1600 GMT the rand was 0.1% firmer at 14.0150 per dollar, with reduced trading volumes ahead of the Easter public holidays amplifying moves.

China’s economy grew at a better-than-forecast 6.4% in the first quarter, defying expectations for a further slowdown and spurring appetite for assets from commodity-driven economies like South Africa which supply China with raw materials.

The rand did not react sharply to local data releases for consumer inflation and retail sales, which pointed to a slight pickup in price pressures against a backdrop of sluggish economic growth.

Government bonds were slightly stronger, with the yield on the benchmark 2026 bond falling 2 basis points to 8.445%.

Johannesburg-listed stocks closed broadly flat, after spending most of the session in the red as commodity stocks were dragged lower by gold prices holding near 2019 lows.

Among the gainers was Sibanye-Stillwater, which rose 6.59% to R14.40 after the miner and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union agreed to a wage settlement.

Lonmin, which Sibanye has proposed to buy, also rose on the news, closing 7.15% firmer at R13.49.

The retail index closed 0.75% higher after better-than-expected retail sales, with Clicks leading the sector, up 3.99% after strong health and beauty product sales drove up half-year earnings by 13.2%.

Private healthcare group Mediclinic International closed 5.53% at R59.52 after it reassured investors with a forecast for net profit that was in line with market expectations despite a tough business backdrop.

The Top-40 index closed 0.05% lower at 52,561 points, while the broader All-Share Index was flat at 58,908 points.

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