The rand was slightly firmer on Tuesday morning, albeit in cautious trade, with little to give global markets clear direction.

Investors are waiting for US President Donald Trump’s state of the union address later in the day, which will be closely watched due to the political fight over funding of border security. The issue has previously led to the longest US government shutdown in history, with another one threatening.

Most Asian markets are closed for the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday this week, an issue that is likely to keep market activity subdued.

At 9.45am the rand was 0.18% firmer at R13.3972/$, 0.3% stronger at R15.303/€ and 0.12% up at R17.4765/£. The euro was 0.11% firmer at $1.1423.

There are few local catalysts ahead of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address on Thursday, but the future of Eskom continues to generate headlines, as SA grapples with that state utility’s mountainous debt.

Eskom has now requested a 17% tariff increase for the 2019/20 financial year, amid warnings that this could threaten SA’s fragile economic recovery.

“Exorbitant electricity tariffs are not only a risk to the inflation outlook but also to growth, as energy-intensive sectors like mining and manufacturing would be hard-hit,” said Rand Merchant Bank analyst Mpho Tsebe.