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Rand firms as Fed cut bets spur buying, stocks steady

At 1600 GMT the rand was 0.4% firmer at 14.7650 per dollar, retreating from a session-best 14.6700, but still its firmest level since 2 August.

Picture: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG - The rand rallied to a 5-week high on Monday on global demand for riskier assets as investors bet the United States central bank would cut lending rates next week.

At 1600 GMT the rand was 0.4% firmer at 14.7650 per dollar, retreating from a session-best 14.6700, but still its firmest level since 2 August.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said on Friday the central bank will continue to act “as appropriate” to sustain economic expansion in the world’s biggest economy, a phrase financial markets have read as signalling further interest-rate cuts.

Powell’s remarks came as the Chinese central bank moved on Friday to cut how much cash banks must hold in reserve, releasing liquidity to shore up an economy hit by the Sino-U.S. trade conflict.

“The rand continues to gain momentum as increased risk appetite is driving flows towards emerging markets,” said Bianca Botes, analyst at Peregrine Treasury Solutions.

“Expected stimuli by both the Fed and the ECB will be conducive to the drive stronger,” Botes added.

The European Central Bank (ECB) is expected to introduce a new wave of monetary stimulus on Thursday.

Bonds also ended firmer, with the yield on the benchmark 2026 issue down 2.5 basis points to 8.125%.

In equities, stocks were flat with the broader All-share index down 0.12% to 55,523 points, while the blue-chip Top-40 index fell 0.14% to 49,602 points.

The bourse wobbled after e-commerce giant Naspers slipped 1% to R3528.34 and gold stocks shed 5.01% as investors ditched the safe-haven asset.

Gold producer Harmony fell 5.48% to R48.46, Gold Fields shed 5.37% to R75.84, while Sibanye Stillwater fell 4.85% to R17.67, and AngloGold Ashanti declined 4.84% to R303.45.

“Gold is being sold off,” said Mike Westerhof, equity trader at AG Capital. “The rand strength also seems to be keeping gold stocks under pressure.”

Telecoms firm MTN, which had to close some of its Nigerian stores last week as protesters targeted it in retaliation for violence aimed at foreigners in Johannesburg, was still feeling the aftermath.

Its shares were down 2.72% to R100.76.