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JOHANNESBURG - The rand stumbled yesterday, driven by a firming dollar and negative sentiment ahead of credit rating decisions at the end of this week.

However, at 5pm, the rand bid at R14.0026 to the dollar, 4.22c stronger than at the same time on Monday.

The local currency spent most of the session on back foot, dipping to a low of R14.15, a short-term support level pegged by some traders as an exit level.

Technical analysts said the rand was likely to fall as far as R14.25 before Friday’s decision on the country’s rand-denominated debt by S&P Global and Moody’s.

The rand’s pull as a carry-trade has, however, limited its slide lower, with some investors betting on lower US interest rates for longer and a chance of hikes by the South African central bank in 2018.

Thirteen of 25 economists surveyed by Reuters on Monday said at least one of the major agencies would cut South Africa’s local currency rating to junk. The other 12 said there would not be a downgrade.

“A touch of caution ahead of the pending inflation figures and interest rate direction, have also played a role in the Rand’s weakness,” said currency analyst at FXTM, Lukman Otunuga.

In the equities market, the main indices hit record highs, boosted by earnings-related gains in Life Healthcare, Barloworld and Reunert.

Life Healthcare, which also has operations in Poland, India and the UK, surged 6.78% to R26 on better prospects for next year after reporting a sharp drop in full-year profit.

“Overall the results indicated a relatively better outlook for the various regions,” said 36One Asset Management analyst, Shmuel Simpson.

Barloworld, an official dealer of Caterpillar construction and mining equipments in 11 southern African countries, hit a record high of R144.53, a day after full-year headline earnings per share increased 16%.

Reunert rose 4.52% to R68.42 after full-year HEPS and revenue climbed 19% and 15% respectively.

The all share index climbed 1.18% to 61211.52 points, while the blue chip JSE Top40 index rose 1.36% to 55065.37 points.