JOHANNESBURG - South Africa’s rand fell to its weakest in nearly 7 months on Tuesday and government bonds weakened sharply as U.S. President Donald Trump threatened new tariffs in an escalating tit-for-tat trade war with China, hitting sentiment in emerging markets.
The rand led the losses in emerging market currencies as sentiment was also weighed by concerns over the domestic economy after a string of poor economic data and power outages following protests over wages at national electricity provider Eskom.
At 11:10am, the rand was 1.43 percent weaker at 13.8450, its lowest since Nov. 27, surrendering all off the gains it made since President Cyril Ramaphosa was elected head of the ruling African National Congress in December.
The sharp global risk-off came after Trump threatened to impose a 10 percent tariff on $200 billion of Chinese goods and Beijing warned it would retaliate, in a rapid escalation of the trade conflict between the world’s two biggest economies.
“The rand is likely to remain volatile for the rest of second quarter 2018 and third quarter as it remains at risk from heavy portfolio outflows,” Investec chief economist Annabel Bishop said.
“Added to this, is that South Africa is already disappointing investors with heavily indebted Eskom’s threatened load shedding and wage demands... the (first quarter) contraction in GDP and South Africa’s twin deficits where little work has been done so far to meaningfully reduce government debt and expenditure to date.”
Africa’s most industrialised economy suffered its worst quarterly GDP contraction in nine years in the first quarter, and last week embattled Eskom began the first country-wide controlled power outages since 2015.
The central bank will release first-quarter current account numbers on Thursday. Economists polled by Reuters expect a wider current account deficit of 3.8 percent of GDP compared with a 2.9 percent shortfall in the final quarter of 2017. In fixed income, the yield for the benchmark government bond due in 2026 was jumped 9 basis points to 9.19 percent, reflecting weaker bond prices.
On the stock market, the Top-40 was down 1.06 percent at 50,465.84 while the broader all-share was 0.99 percent lower at 56,668.57.