Picture: REUTERS/MIKE HUTCHINGS
Picture: REUTERS/MIKE HUTCHINGS

The rand was steady on Thursday afternoon, largely holding onto some gains made overnight, when dovish US Federal Reserve minutes put some pressure on the dollar.

Risk-on trade seen earlier in the week was cooling a little, analysts said, as an air of caution returned following a rally this week prompted by developments in the US-China trade negotiations.

At 2pm, the rand was 0.27% weaker to the dollar at R13.8967 and 0.13% weaker to the euro at R16.0195, while it was 0.13% firmer to the pound at R17.7038. The euro was at $1.1527.

The pound was under some pressure after UK parliamentarians voted in favour of a resolution demanding that a new Brexit plan be formulated, within three days, should they reject UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s draft plan next week.

Global markets have been boosted this week by positive US-China trade talks, although analysts have noted that these were between mid-level officials. Further high-level talks are also in the offing, although US President Donald Trump has said he is confident a deal could be struck [without him].

“Despite this positive environment, nothing should be taken for granted,” said FXTM chief market strategist Hussein Sayed. “Trump’s demands are difficult to meet and talks may break down at any moment.”

Chinese economic data, meanwhile, was disappointing, putting some strain on commodity prices. Due to SA’s status as a major metals exporter, the rand is often influenced by commodity price movements.

Local data was also disappointing, with the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) business confidence index (BCI) falling by 0.9 points to 95.2 in December from 96.1 in November 2018. Sacci noted that SA is lagging in performance relative to the rest of the world and its emerging-market peers.

Manufacturing data was also disappointing, growing only 1.6% year-on-year in November. The Trading Economics consensus forecast had been for growth of 2.5%.

gernetzkyk@businesslive.co.za