Rand weakens third day as platinum strike starts

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NewRandMoney

Reuters.

Cape Town - South Africa’s rand weakened for a third day and bonds fell on concern a pay strike at the world’s biggest platinum mines and a manufacturing contraction in China may dent South Africa’s exports.

The platinum strike will disrupt operations accounting for about 70 percent of global output of the precious metal, South Africa’s biggest single overseas shipment.

Chinese manufacturing may contract for the first time in six months, adding to stresses in the world’s second-largest economy and the biggest buyer of South African raw materials, according to a gauge released by HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics.

“Positivity in the rand seems to be short-lived, with industrial action in the platinum sector weighing on the local economy,” Thando Vokwana, a fixed-income trader at FirstRand Ltd. in Johannesburg, said in an e-mail.

“It seems brakes have been applied to the world’s growth engine, with the latest flash PMI reading showing a cool-down in Chinese and global demand, erasing the rand gains made yesterday.”

The rand retreated 0.6 percent to 10.9369 per dollar by 10:08 a.m. in Johannesburg, the worst performance out of 16 major currencies monitored by Bloomberg and the lowest in a week on an intraday basis.

The currency has depreciated 4.1 percent this year.

Yields on rand bonds due December 2026 climbed four basis points, or 0.04 percentage point, to 8.45 percent, the highest on a closing basis since December 5.

Members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union at Anglo American Platinum Ltd., Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. and Lonmin Plc, the three largest producers, didn’t clock in for duty today, AMCU Treasurer Jimmy Gama said by phone.

Ruling Postponed

The AMCU’s plan to start a strike at South African gold mines today was delayed after the Johannesburg Labour Court postponed its ruling on whether the stoppage would be protected to January 30.

When South African strikes have this status, workers can down tools without being fired or disciplined.

A two-day strike in September by the National Union of Mineworkers, which represents two-thirds of the industry’s 107,000 gold miners, cost companies mining the metal as much as 349 million rand ($32 million) a day in sales, according to the Chamber of Mines.

The labour disputes are “unlikely to instill much enthusiasm for local investment,” Mohammed Nalla, head of strategic research at Nedbank Group Ltd. in Johannesburg, said in an e-mail.

The rand may trade between 10.80 and 11 per dollar today, he said.

The preliminary reading of 49.6 for January in China’s Purchasing Managers’ Index released today was below a final figure of 50.5 in December and all 19 estimates of analysts in a Bloomberg survey.

A number above 50 indicates expansion.

China is South Africa’s biggest trading partner, buying 11 percent of the the nation’s exports from January to November, according to government data.

Foreign investors bought a net 310 million rand of South African bonds yesterday, paring outflows this month to 5.32 billion rand, according to JSE Ltd. data. Investors abroad purchased 853 million rand of equities. - Bloomberg News


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