(Adds latest numbers)
JOHANNESBURG Feb 14 South Africa's rand raced
to its firmest in more than 15 months against the dollar on
Tuesday, helped by improved risk appetite and jobs data
suggesting the economy is improving.
Stocks were weaker, as the main bourse was dragged lower by
miner Kumba Iron Ore after the company said it was
still not in a position to pay shareholders a dividend despite
seeing a doubling in earnings.
By 1600 GMT the rand had gained 0.9 percent to
13.2275 per dollar, having reached its strongest since Oct. 23,
2015, according to Thomson Reuters data, after closing at
13.3400 overnight in New York.
"It's really a technical move and a continuation of recent
momentum. There's been pressure for a while on the dollar/rand
to break lower and now it's happened," said Jim Bryson, currency
trader at Rand Merchant Bank.
"Now we need to see a close at around 12.90 to confirm the
move and maybe see the rand strengthen further."
The rand kicked off local trade on the front foot as the
dollar came under pressure after the resignation of U.S.
National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. It made further gains
as South Africa's unemployment rate pulled back from its highest
in 13 years.
Technical and momentum indicators point to the rand
extending the rally after struggling to break short-term
resistance around 13.40 for the past two weeks, although it
remains vulnerable to swings in global sentiment.
A Reuters poll of 39 strategists last week saw the rand
weakening around 8 percent in 2016 as the government struggles
to keep public spending down, and as rates are expected to rise
in the United States.
On the bourse, the benchmark Top-40 index fell 1.1
percent to 45,437 points while the All-Share index
dropped 0.93 percent to 52,957 points.
Kumba Iron Ore, a unit of Anglo American,
fell 7.16 percent by the close after announcing it would hold
off on paying a dividend because of a volatile market outlook.
"The market doesn't like that because it means there's
nothing in it for them for the next six months to a year,"
Independent Securities trader Ryan Woods said.
Among the biggest fallers were Northam Platinum
which tumbled 5.88 percent to 51.06 rand, ArcelorMittal
which fell 3.17 percent to 13.75 percent and Impala Platinum
which dropped 2.97 percent to 52.89 rand.
In fixed income, bonds were firmer with the yield on the
benchmark government issue due in 2026 shedding 10.5 basis
points to 8.625 percent.
(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana and Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by
Mark Trevelyan and David Evans)