(Adds detail, fresh quotes, gives background)
JOHANNESBURG, March 20 South Africa's rand rose
to its strongest level in 19 months on Monday, extending gains
to the fourth straight session as the U.S. Federal Reserve's
less hawkish-than-expected comments continued to drag the U.S.
The rand traded 0.51 percent firmer at 12.65 per
dollar, a level last seen in early August 2015.
Locally, the focus this week will be on fourth-quarter
current account data and monthly consumer inflation, both due
out on Wednesday.
"We expect a current account deficit that could come close
to 3.2 percent of GDP. That is very supportive for a
strengthening currency," said Rand Merchant Bank economist Isaah
A Reuters poll of 16 economists expects South Africa's
fourth quarter current account deficit to narrow to 3.5 percent
of gross domestic product compared with 4.1 percent the previous
On the bourse, stocks ended higher with Naspers
topping the gainers' list on the blue-chip index ahead of
quarterly results from its Chinese money spinner, Tencent
The blue-chip Top-40 index gained 0.44 percent to
45,507 and the broader All-share index added 0.4
percent to 52,753.
Naspers, South Africa's biggest company by market value,
rose 3.3 percent to 2,291.20 rand. Naspers owns about a third of
Tencent, which is due to report its fourth quarter results on
In fixed income, government bonds weakened with the yield on
2026 benchmark up 0.6 basis points at 8.456 percent.
(Reporting by Olwethu Boso & Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by