Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

The rand remained on the back foot against the dollar on Wednesday afternoon, but appeared to stabilise at softer levels, amid growing fear of a global trade war, with the US set to impose further duties on imported Chinese goods.

The rand was weaker despite the euro trading within a narrow range against the dollar. The pound was relatively stable against the dollar despite the turmoil in UK politics, with two ministers resigning earlier in the week.

The US is looking to impose 10% import duties on $200bn worth of Chinese goods. This is in addition to the 25% tariff it placed on $34bn worth of Chinese imports on Friday.

Oanda analyst Craig Erlam said while the announcement had been expected ever since US President Donald Trump first hinted at such a response to China’s retaliatory measures, it was a stark reminder that common sense was not prevailing. "The risk of a full-blown trade war is very real."

At 3pm the rand was at R13.4381 to the dollar from R13.3349, at R15.7906 to the euro from R15.6348 and at R17.8216 to the pound from R17.669.

The euro was at $1.1752 from $1.1744.

ING analysts said the euro should stay at about $1.17 over the short term, with limited effect from the latest trade announcement by the US against China.

ING noted that trade tension ultimately clouded the outlook for the eurozone economy, and by extension European Central Bank monetary policy.

Although a trade war would be negative for the exporting economy of the eurozone, so far the US had focused more on Chinese goods rather than European ones, although US tariffs on cars remained a threat, Dow Jones Newswires said.

External factors have predominantly influenced trade in the rand this week, despite moves by President Cyril Ramaphosa to push for land expropriation without compensation.

"Ramaphosa will mitigate threats to agricultural production, with unused or underutilised land likely to be the subject of land expropriation, rather than productive farmland," BMI Research analysts said in a note.

Local bonds were weaker with the R186 bid at 8.72% from 8.66%. The US 10-year treasury was at 2.8542% from 2.8561%.

The usual moves in this trade dispute had been for global yields to fall, the yen and the dollar to be preferred in the currency markets, and equities to correct, said Hantec Markets analyst Richard Perry. "And all these factors happened in a knee-jerk reaction in overnight trade."

The German 10-year bund was at 0.3119% from 0.319%.

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