Picture: REUTERS, SIPHIWE SIBEKO
Picture: REUTERS, SIPHIWE SIBEKO

The rand was slightly weaker on Tuesday afternoon as the dollar lost ground ahead of the US central bank decision on interest rates on Wednesday.

The market has priced in a 100% likelihood that the US Fed will hike rates by 25 basis points, with the Fed's forward-looking view what market watchers are keenly interested in. The most interesting part will be how the Fed sees the US economy performing in 2019 and beyond, said FXTM analyst Hussein Sayed.

He said ongoing support from the lower corporate tax rate will gradually begin to fade and higher borrowing costs, along with a stronger dollar, will likely begin impacting future US corporate earnings.

For 2019, it only takes one member to lower their interest-rate projections to shift the median expectation to two rate hikes instead of three. "Such a shift in the dot plot will be viewed as dovish and likely lead to further selling pressure on the dollar," Sayed said.

The dollar was also under pressure from a stronger oil price. Brent crude lifted above $80 a barrel on Monday, supporting commodities. The dollar usually fares badly in a stronger commodity environment. Brent crude touched $81.86 a barrel on Tuesday afternoon.

The euro gained further traction on the day as the market priced in the expected rate trajectory of the European Central Bank (ECB), which has indicated that rates in the EU are set to rise from next year.

At 3pm, the rand was at R14.4237 from R14.3684 after having firmed to R14.3208 in the morning. It was at R16.9918 to the euro from R16.877 and at R18.975 to the pound from R18.8535. The euro was at $1.178 from $1.1746.

The rand plummeted to R15.69 on September 5, its weakest level so far this year but has been recovering gradually since then.

Local bonds were weaker, with the benchmark R186 government bond last bid at 9.17% from 9.08% and the R207 at 7.775% from 7.68%. The yield on US 10-year treasuries was last at 3.0987%, up from 3.078% on Monday in a signal that demand for safe assets is slipping as investors become more confident about the global economy, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

mittnerm@businesslive.co.za