September 25, 2018 / 9:15 AM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-South African portfolio inflows plummet in second quarter

(Adds detail, context)

PRETORIA, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Portfolio investments into the South African economy fell sharply in the second quarter, as investor risk aversion towards emerging markets was rising, central bank data showed on Tuesday.

Inward investment into South African bonds and equities shrank to 16.6 billion rand ($1.16 billion) from 89.4 billion rand in the first three months of the year, the Reserve Bank said.

Appetite for bonds was hardest-hit, with non-resident investors cutting their purchases to a net 3.8 billion rand in the second quarter from 46.9 billion rand in the first quarter. Purchases of equities fell to 12.8 billion rand from 42.5 billion rand.

Africa’s most industrialised economy relies partly on volatile portfolio flows to fund its budget and current account deficits.

The central bank did not give a reason for the slump in investment into South African assets, but during the second quarter global investors were scaling back their allocations towards emerging markets as worries about the health of the Turkish and Argentinian economies grew.

That was followed by a steep sell-off in emerging market assets in the third quarter, as investors fretted that economies like South Africa could suffer from contagion from turmoil on Turkish and Argentinian financial markets.

Separately, plans by South Africa’s African National Congress to speed up land redistribution had started to unnerve investors, despite assurances from the ruling party that land reform would follow a parliamentary process and the economy would not be negatively impacted.

Reserve Bank data also showed on Tuesday that South Africa’s total external debt increased to 2.165 trillion rand at the end of the first quarter, from 2.130 trillion rand at the end of last year, mainly due to an increase in rand-denominated external debt.

On Friday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a multi-billion-dollar stimulus plan to pull South Africa out of recession.

Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana Writing by Alexander Winning; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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