Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

The rand was relatively flat on Thursday afternoon, overcoming an initial slide during Asian trading that knocked it to its weakest level against the dollar in two months.

The recovery, however, came despite the continued shaky global environment, which often discourages risk-taking among market participants.

The rand is often viewed as a barometer of sentiment towards emerging markets, which are vulnerable because they are generally perceived as risky.

Earlier, while Asian markets were still trading, the rand sank as much as 1.66% to R14.7017 to the dollar, its worst level in two months, before recouping most of its losses by the afternoon.

Risk assets have had a rocky start to 2019, hurt by perceptions of decelerating global growth, which is partly blamed on the effect of a trade dispute between the US and China, although the world's two largest economies have since called a ceasefire.

The volatility in financial markets has fed perceptions that the US Federal Reserve could pause in its interest-rate-hiking cycle, a scenario that could provide breathing space for higher-yielding emerging-market currencies.

The rand suffered a drop of about 15% against the dollar in 2018, according to Iress data, its worst annual showing since 2015, as foreigners sold local bonds and shares.

Local bonds also fared a lot better in late trade, with the yield on benchmark R186 bond dipping to 8.85% from 8.925%.

At 3.28pm, the rand was 0.09% softer against the dollar at R14.4762, 0.19% softer against the euro at R16.4355, but perked up slightly against the pound to R18.2214. The euro was up 0.1% to the dollar at $1.1354.

mahlangua@businesslive.co.za