South Africa's rand weakens, monetary policy in focus


Updates prices, adds stocks

JOHANNESBURG, Nov 18 (Reuters) - South Africa's rand weakened on Monday, as cautious investors awaited clues on monetary policy from the local central bank and some of the world's major central banks, as well as developments in U.S.-China trade talks.

At 1535 GMT the rand ZAR=D3 was 0.41% weaker at 14.7850 per dollar.

South Africa's central bank decides on lending rates for the last time in 2019 on Thursday, and the regulator is expected to keep the level unchanged at 6.5%.

Twenty-one of 28 economists polled by Reuters in the previous week said the repo rate would remain unchanged at the Nov. 21 meeting. The remaining seven said the monetary policy committee (MPC) would cut rates by 25 basis points.

South Africa's relatively high rates, combined with benign consumer inflation, has shielded the rand from large selloffs despite a deteriorating fiscal and economic outlook, and is set to keep it below the 15.00 mark going into year-end.

"Given how trade uncertainty and global growth fears have encouraged central banks across the globe to ease monetary policy, all eyes will be on the South African Reserve Bank's rate decision later in the week," said Lukman Otunuga, senior research analyst at FXTM.

"Should the SARB adopt a cautious stance and express concerns over the South African economy, the rand will be thrown in the direct firing line."

Globally, focus is on minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve's October meeting expected on Wednesday, while markets also await the first major speech by European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde on Friday.

On the bourse, the Top-40 .JTOPI index rose 0.82% while the broader all-share .JALSH closed 0.74% higher.

Gainers included technology investment company Prosus PRXJn.J, rising 2.5% after the firm said it expected a rise of between 3% and 9% in "core headline earnings per share" from continuing operations for its fiscal first half year ended Sept. 30.

Dutch-based Prosus was spun out of South Africa's Naspers NPNJn.J in a Sept. 11 initial public offering, and Naspers retains a 73.8% stake. Naspers shares closed 2.37% higher.

Bonds weakened, with the yield on the benchmark 2026 government issue ZAR186= inching up 2.5 basis point to 8.405%.

(Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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