Bonds

S.Africa's rand slips to 1-week low, financial stocks drag down bourse

Credit: REUTERS/THOMAS WHITE

The South African rand slipped to its weakest in one week on Friday as escalating trade tensions between China and the United States dragged down demand for emerging markets assets.

Rand roiled by trade war, investors eye cabinet composition

Stocks down as weak currency hits banks

Adds latest prices, analyst quotes

JOHANNESBURG, May 17 (Reuters) - The South African rand slipped to its weakest in one week on Friday as escalating trade tensions between China and the United States dragged down demand for emerging markets assets.

At 1540 GMT, the rand ZAR=D3 was 1% weaker at 14.4300 per dollar, its weakest level since May 9, after an overnight close of 14.2875.

With soft local economic data in the first half of the week and an escalation in the tariff spat between Washington and Beijing in the second half, the currency has struggled to hold on to gains it made following last week's general elections.

Tit-for-tat restrictions, including Beijing imposing higher tariffs on most U.S. imports and U.S. President Donald Trump blocking China's Huawei Technologies from buying vital American technology, have dented investor enthusiasm for risk assets.

And while the victory of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa's African National Congress (ANC) in parliamentary and provincial polls has been cheered by financial markets, investors are holding fire until he appoints a new cabinet. ]

"Market participants are acutely aware of the apparent fissures within the ANC, which may disrupt attempts at reform. They may reserve judgement and are likely to look out for signposts to confirm the President’s 'mandate'", economists at Sanlam Arthur Kamp said.

Bonds were also weaker, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year government issue ZAR186= adding 7 basis points to 8.495 %.

On the bourse, stocks weakened on the back of U.S.-China trade talks.

The broader All-Share index .JALSH fell 0.63% to 56,183 points, while the Top-40 index .JTOPI closed 0.55% down at 50,081 points.

Among the losers was South African diversified industrial goods wholesaler Bidvest BVTJ.J, down 4.32% to 199.49 rand, while lender FirstRand FSRJ.J fell 3.19% to 65.80 rand.

U.S. markets had a weak opening, suggesting volatility and posing a threat to South African markets, said Byron Lotter, Vestact Asset Management portfolio manager.

Local stocks such as investment house Rand Merchant Bank RMMMu.J and Bidvest - often seen as proxies for local economic health along with other financial firms - fell.

Standard Bank slipped 3.1 % to 195.61 rand after ICBC Standard Bank announced the closure of its Tokyo metals branch.

(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana and Onke Ngcuka; Editing by Mark Potter)

((mfuneko.toyana@thomsonreuters.com; +27117753153; Reuters Messaging: mfuneko.toyana.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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