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South African rand gains as Evergrande jitters ease

09/22/2021 | 12:21pm EDT
People chat in front of a reception with an electronic board displaying movements in major indices at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange building in Sandton Johannesburg

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -South Africa's rand strengthened on Wednesday, as an easing of market jitters over Chinese property developer Evergrande lifted risk-sensitive currencies worldwide.

At 1550 GMT the rand traded at 14.7350 against the dollar, roughly 0.7% firmer than its previous close.

Evergrande agreed to settle interest payments on a domestic bond, while the Chinese central bank injected cash into the banking system, soothing fears of imminent contagion from the debt-laden property company.

The dollar was on the defensive ahead of a policy announcement by the Federal Reserve following a two-day meeting that started on Tuesday.

Domestically, the focus turned to an interest rate decision by the South African Reserve Bank on Thursday.

In a poll published last week, all the economists surveyed by Reuters predicted the SARB would leave its repo rate at a record low of 3.5% as inflation remains well within its target band of 3% to 6%. A deputy governor said last month he thought the bank could normalise rates fairly slowly.

Data on Wednesday showed annual consumer inflation quickened to 4.9% in August from 4.6% in July, slightly ahead of forecasts for a 4.8% increase, though the market showed little reaction to the latest figures.

The rand had slipped to its weakest in more three weeks on Tuesday after ratings agency Fitch said Africa's most industrialised economy would continue to face challenges as it seeks to stabilise debt.

Johannesburg-listed stocks were also boosted by the Evergrande developments. The Johannesburg Stock Exchange's All-share index closed up 1.6% at 63,353 points while the Top-40 index gained 1.5% to 56,938 points.

The government's benchmark 2030 bond dipped, with the yield rising 2 basis points to 9.085%.

(Reporting by Alexander Winning and Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; editing by Barbara Lewis)

© Reuters 2021
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