Rand extends losses amid junk-status threat
Fitch Ratings cut its outlook on SA’s debt to negative on Friday following Eskom’s bailout, while the focus has turned to the US Federal Reserve
The rand was weaker against major global currencies on Monday morning, at a one-month low against the dollar, after being battered on Friday by looming threats of credit-ratings downgrades.
Fitch Ratings cut its outlook on SA’s debt to negative on Friday following the announcement of an additional R59bn in support for Eskom over the next two financial years.
Moody’s Investors Service hinted strongly earlier in the week that it could no longer remain silent on SA’s deteriorating debt picture, saying Eskom's bailout was “credit negative”.
Rand weakness since Friday was largely due to local risks, said Standard Bank currency trader Warrick Butler in a note, as other emerging-market currencies had been generally stable since then.
“The rand should find some minor support at the 55-day moving average which is situated quite close to the opening level of R14.3392/$,” Butler said.
The next major resistance level was at R14.50/$ and a breach of this will not be good as it should then open the path to test R15.17, he said.
At 9.30am the rand had fallen 0.37% to R14.3159/$, 0.31% weaker at R15.92/€ and 0.11% softer at R17.6721/£. The euro was flat at $1.1121.
The benchmark R186 government bond due in 2026 had weakened, rising two basis points to 8.36%. Bond yields move inversely to bond prices.
The rand was also facing some pressure following the release of a report by President Cyril Ramaphosa's advisory panel on land reform and agriculture, at the weekend. The report recommended that the constitution be amended to allow expropriation without compensation, although it did emphasise the importance of property rights.
The agriculture report may have added to some pressure on the rand, but Eskom's debt and concerns of a downgrade of SA's economy were having a bigger effect, said Capital Economics senior emerging markets economist John Ashbourne.
“The land reform process will probably create more rand-negative headlines over the next couple of months, but our key view is that the actual law will lead to a pretty moderate, gradual process and that fears of a Zimbabwe-style disaster will fade,” Ashbourne said. The report had made it clear, for example, that expropriation without compensation would only be used in a small number of cases, he said.
Focus this week is on the US Federal Reserve policy announcement on Thursday, with the world’s most influential central bank expected to cut interest rates by 25 basis points.
The pricing in US sovereign bond markets suggests no more than a 17% chance for a 50-basis-point cut at this week’s monetary policy meeting, said London Capital Group senior market analyst Ipek Ozkardeskaya in a note. The market is also pricing in two more cuts over the next nine months.