File image: IOL
JOHANNESBURG – The rand traded weaker on Thursday, shifting back above the R14 mark with investors closing positions and taking profits in anticipation of low volume ahead of the Easter holidays.

At 5pm, the rand bid at R14.0646 to the dollar, 9cents softer than at the same time on Wednesday, falling alongside its emerging market peers as global risk demand faded.

The rand eked out gains in the previous session after retail sales came in weak but better than forecasts, offering hope the economy could shake off the impact of nationwide power outages over February and March.

The central bank, however, warned late on Wednesday that should the rolling blackouts persist throughout the year, it may knock 1.1percentage off gross domestic product, leaving Africa’s most industrialised economy facing possible recession.

With local markets closed on Friday and yesterday, liquidity wass set to be tight, with the rand likely to struggle to find momentum to drive it significantly below R14, traders said.

In equities, the blue chip Top40 index gained 0.59percent to 52872.78 points while the broader all share index advanced 0.53percent to 59222.47 points.

Among the top blue chip gainers, Clicks Group jumped 6.19percent to R195.46, Mr Price was up 3.35percent to R215.96, The Foschini Group advanced 2.84percent to R186.66 and MTN climbed 2.71percent to R105.30.

The decliners were led by Sasol, down 1.39percent to R467.81, Spar Group which retreated 1.38percent to R202.66 and British American Tobacco, down 1percent at R561.02.

Shares in miner Sibanye closed 0.69percent lower at R14.30 despite the fact that the company agreed a wage settlement with The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union to end a five-month strike at its gold operations.