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Rand, stocks slide as second wave coronavirus fears resurface

The Top-40 companies index closed down 0.25% to 49,535 points while the All-Share index was down 0.27% to end the day at 53,881 points.

Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa’s rand tumbled on Thursday despite the country loosening coronavirus restrictions as global risk sentiment was hurt again by fears of a second wave of infections.

At 1530 GMT the rand was 1.59% weaker at 17.4625 per dollar, a two-week low after opening at 17.1900, with losses coming during the New York session after low volumes in the local session as most traders awaited next week’s emergency budget.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday casinos, cinemas, personal care services and certain forms of accommodation would be allowed to operate as the country further eases coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

But a surge in new coronavirus infections in several US states and the imposition of travel curbs in Beijing to stop a new outbreak there have served as a reminder of the risks of reopening economic activity before a vaccine has been developed.

That triggered an investor march to safe havens such as the dollar and the Japanese yen, although the move was not unanimous as declining jobless claims in the United States on Thursday kept some investors bullish on the global economic recovery.

That sentiment was reflected in local bonds, with the yield on the government issue due in 2030 falling 18 basis points to 9.33%.

The stock market was also down despite the new rules allowing the opening up restaurants, casinos and theatres.

The Top-40 companies index closed down 0.25% to 49,535 points while the All-Share index was down 0.27% to end the day at 53,881 points.

Shares of casinos and hotel companies such as Tsogo Sun Gaming Ltd, Tsogo Sun Hotels Ltd and Sun International Ltd rallied, but financials led the slide with the banking index down 3%.

South Africa’s banking association said bad debts could go up to 10% this year due to coronavirus, up from 6% seen during the 2008/09 financial crisis.