October 8, 2018 / 4:00 PM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 1-South Africa's rand slides over fin min crisis, stocks hit 6-month lows

* Rand falls more than one percent over fin min’s fate

* Stocks fall to March lows as gold, bank stocks wilt (Adds latest prices, analyst comment)

JOHANNESBURG, Oct 8 (Reuters) - South Africa’s rand weakened more than one percent on Monday over a newspaper report that Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene had asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to sack him rocked the currency.

Stocks dipped to their lowest since early March led by gold and banks shares, tracking the weaker currency.

The rand trimmed some of its losses to trade 0.58 percent weaker at 14.8800 per dollar at 1557 GMT, having hit a session low of 14.9875 in early trade after the Business Day newspaper citing government sources as saying Nene had asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to be released from his position.

Ramaphosa’s spokeswoman told Reuters his office was not aware of Nene’s request.

Last week Nene told an inquiry into government corruption he had made numerous visits to the Gupta family, friends of former leader Jacob Zuma accused of unfairly winning state contracts and influencing the firing of ministers. Both Zuma and the Guptas have denied any wrongdoing.

Nene is due to read the mid-term budget later this month.

Moody’s is set to review its rating on Friday, and Nene’s departure risks rattling fragile investor sentiment towards an economy in recession.

“The initial selling reaction on the rand on reports that its finance minister has asked to be sacked will encourage investor caution that South Africa could be in store for another round of political risk,” said Jameel Ahmad, head of currency strategy at FXTM.

South Africa has had three ministers in the last two years, with rand and bonds reacting badly to the upheavals.

Bonds also slumped, with the yield on the benchmark paper due in 2026 up 6 basis points to 9.3 percent.

On the bourse, the All-Share index fell 0.35 percent to 54,219 points while the blue chip Top-40 index fell 0.45 percent 48,042 points.

Banks were down 0.44 percent and the gold index fell 1.07 percent to 1,032 rand.

MTN bucked the trend, rising 2.6 percent after the Nigerian central bank said it may reduce the amount it has ordered the telecoms firm to repatriate.

“We continue to be affected by the U.S. policy decisions and locally, the weakened rand and political uncertainty continue to weigh on local stocks,” said Ferdi Heyneke, portfolio manager at Afrifocus Securities.

Gold fell partly on the back of gains in the dollar which is benefiting from a run of strong U.S. economic data reinforcing expectations of further interest rate rises. (Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana and Patricia Aruo Editing by James Macharia)

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