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Volatile rand weakens as investors weigh China virus damage

The outbreak of the coronavirus in China, with the death toll rising sharply to 132 on Wednesday as nearly 1,500 new cases were identified, remained the main market mover as investors awaited news on possible economic damage.

Picture: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG - The rand weakened on Wednesday, reversing gains from the previous session in another day of volatile trading as concerns over the impact of the coronavirus on Chinese growth kept investors looking for short gains.

At 1545 GMT the rand was 0.36% weaker at R14.6020, having closed at a six-week best of R14.5430 overnight, before slipping back to a session low of R14.6380 as investors pocketed profits from the small rally, looking to the dollar for safety.

The outbreak of the coronavirus in China, with the death toll rising sharply to 132 on Wednesday as nearly 1,500 new cases were identified, remained the main market mover as investors awaited news on possible economic damage.

The subsequent risk aversion pushed the dollar close to two-month highs, but also exposed the rand’s shaky ground as volatility gauges climbed to their highest since the October budget, showing investors’ uncertainty about the local economy.

Bonds were firmer, with the yield on the benchmark paper due in 2026 down 6 basis points to 8.025%.

Stocks closed higher, with the Johannesburg Stock Exchange’s Top-40 index rising 1.09% to 50,344 points and the broader all-share index climbing 1.12% to 56,371 points.

The biggest winner of the day was Quilter, the UK wealth management business formerly part of Old Mutual.

Its Johannesburg-listed shares rose almost 9% after it issued a trading statement for the fourth quarter showing that assets under management and administration had risen 13% year-on-year, while gross sales were up 17%.