March 23, 2020 / 3:59 PM / 7 days ago

UPDATE 1-South Africa's rand on the ropes as virus fears mount

(Update prices)

JOHANNESBURG, March 23 (Reuters) - South Africa’s rand weakened on Monday, threatening to break through a lifetime low against the dollar as concerns over coronavirus infections and likely stricter measures weighed on already shaky sentiment, as stocks fell.

At 1510 GMT the rand traded 1.08% weaker at 17.7200 per dollar, after hitting a high of 17.5800 earlier in the session as it edged closer to an all-time worst level of 17.9950 in 2015.

Bonds continued to tumble, with the government issue due in 2030 adding 63.5 basis points to 12.305%.

With South Africa reporting a sharp jump in confirmed coronavirus cases on Monday to 402, from less than 50 just over a week ago, sentiment towards the rand and other local assets is set to remain on the ropes.

“The world is highly unpredictable, and we cannot know when foreign selling of (South African) assets will stop, nor how much economic damage we will end up inflicting on ourselves,” Anchor Capital Chief Investment Officer Nolan Wapenaar said in a note.

“However, what we do know is that common sense will once again prevail at some point.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared a national state of disaster and imposed measures such as travel bans to curb the spread of coronavirus. He is expected to address the nation later on Monday on new measures.

On the stock market, the JSE’s Top-40 index closed down 4.43% at 34,696 points, while the broader all-share index fell 4.98% to 38,267 points. A host of firms saw their shares sink by more than 10% or 15% as the coronavirus sell-off hit local stocks.

The banking sector led the fallers down 9.89% (Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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