March 20, 2020 / 9:59 AM / 20 days ago

South Africa's rand, stocks bounce as central bank measures ease virus pain

JOHANNESBURG, March 20 (Reuters) - South Africa’s rand was firmer early on Friday after the central bank sharply cut interest rates and introduced a raft of new liquidity measures to blunt the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on its economy.

At 0900 GMT, the rand was 0.87% firmer at 17.3000 per dollar compared to an overnight close of 17.4550, with most of the gains coming after the Thursday’s decision by the central bank to slash lending rates by 100 basis points.

Early on Friday, the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) announced additional emergency liquidity measures to ease the stress on banks caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Central banks around the world have been slashing interest rates and pumping trillions of dollars into the financial system, helping global stock markets bounce 1% bounce on Friday and causing the dollar to come off its highs against other currencies.

Bonds were also firmer ahead of an auction of short term government instruments at 1000 GMT. The yield on the paper due in 2030 was down 27 basis points at 11.450%.

Since the beginning of February, the rand has plunged more than 10%, bond yields have risen to all-time highs and about 4 trillion rand ($233 billion) has been wiped off the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).

The rand’s slide paused just short of an all-time low of nearly 18.00 per U.S. dollar this week, but equities remained near a seven year trough.

The stock market rose on Friday, with the Johannesburg Stock Exchange’s (JSE) Top-40 index jumping 8% to 36,949 points. (Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel)

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