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UPDATE 1-S.Africa's rand claws back losses; political uncertainty dashes rate cut hopes
March 30, 2017 / 12:21 PM / 4 months ago

UPDATE 1-S.Africa's rand claws back losses; political uncertainty dashes rate cut hopes

3 Min Read

* Rand recovers some losses in volatile trade

* Forward markets show no chance of interest rate cut

* Central bank's policy announcement at 1300 GMT (Adds latest prices, analyst comments ahead of rates decision)

JOHANNESBURG, March 30 (Reuters) - South Africa's rand and bonds recouped losses on Thursday in volatile trade over jitters of the finance minister's sacking, while markets slashed bets of an interest rate cut on the rising political uncertainty in Africa's most industrialised economy.

At 1130 GMT the rand had gained 1.02 percent to 12.8900 per dollar. The currency had weakened more than 5 percent since Monday after President Jacob Zuma ordered Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to abandon an investor roadshow in Britain and return home "immediately".

The rand rose to a session high of 12.82 after Reuters exclusively reported that Zuma is considering offering to step down next year, at least 12 months before his term as South African president ends.

Bonds reached their firmest since Monday, with the yield on benchmark paper due in 2026 falling 12 basis points to 8.595 percent.

Currency broker at Capilis Asset Management Giacomo Bonavera said the rand would react more sharply to bad news than good news, and that big moves would also be determined by technical levels.

"Traders are using technical levels to gauge where the market will go, and 13.75 looks like a level they might target, which is about 10 percent weaker than where the rand was when the news (of Gordhan's recall) hit," Bonavera said.

Bonavera said 10 percent was roughly the same size move that preceded a rand recovery following Zuma's unexplained decision to fire then finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in December 2015.

Interest rate markets also reacted to the political upheaval, with forward rate markets now pricing in a less than zero percent chance of a 25 basis point cut to lending rates at the South African Reserve Bank's policy announcement at 1300 GMT.

"The short end of the market is pricing in a smaller chance of a cut as opposed to where it was last week, and that's because of all the political uncertainty," said fixed income specialist at Rand Merchant Bank Michelle Wohlberg.

Inflation slowed to 6.3 percent in February from 6.6 percent the previous month, while the current account deficit narrowed to near a six-year low, giving policymakers room to consider a rate cut to buoy the ailing economy. (Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by James Macharia)

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