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Rand firms; focus shifts to data, Ramaphosa speech

Markets will be watching out for Ramaphosa’s annual speech at the opening of Parliament on Thursday for clarity on policy and reform, amid power cuts that have knocked confidence in the economy.

South African rand.  Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The rand firmed early on Tuesday as sentiment was helped by an apparent slowdown in coronavirus infections, with focus shifting to domestic economic data and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address later this week.

At 0630 GMT, the rand traded at R14.9500 per dollar, 0.19% higher than its previous close.

China reported 108 new coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, bringing the total number of people killed in the country to 1,016, yet the number of new cases fell.

Traders were waiting for unemployment and manufacturing figures set to be released later in the session, while retail and mining production numbers are scheduled to be reported later in the week.

Markets will be watching out for Ramaphosa’s annual speech at the opening of Parliament on Thursday for clarity on policy and reform, amid power cuts that have knocked confidence in the economy.

“The local calendar will be dominated this week by the state of the nation address, with investors eager for clarity on recent comments relating to the possible use of pension funds to reduce energy parastatal Eskom’s debt burden,” said analysts at NKC African Economics.

State power utility Eskom is heavily indebted and its creaking fleet of coal-fired plants have struggled to meet electricity demand, forcing the firm to implement rotational power cuts.

The root cause of Eskom’s financial woes partly lie in massive cost overruns at two huge coal plant projects, but it has also been hamstrung by mismanagement and corruption scandals under previous executives.

In fixed income, the yield on the benchmark government bond due in 2026 was down 1.5 basis points to 7.995%.

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