January 24, 2019 / 3:44 PM / 9 months ago

UPDATE 1-South African rand firms; Vodacom slumps on revenue slowdown

* Improved risk taking helps rand currency

* Vodacom tops decliners on blue-chip index (Updates prices)

JOHANNESBURG, Jan 24 (Reuters) - South Africa’s rand rose to a near one-week high against the dollar on Thursday as risk-taking crept back into markets, while a slump in mobile operator Vodacom’s shares dragged the bourse lower.

Vodacom was hit by a slowdown in quarterly group and service revenue growth, as its home market performed badly.

At 1521 GMT, the rand - which has enjoyed a strong start to 2019 - traded at 13.7200 per dollar, 0.65 percent firmer than its previous close. The currency was trading at its firmest since Jan. 18.

The rand has tracked global markets this week, rallying on Wednesday as top trading partner China pledged more fiscal spending to support its own slowing economy.

“As the U.S. continues its shutdown and volatility falls, the appeal of carry trades seems to be back in favour. South Africa is sitting on some pretty decent real interest rates now (repo rate less inflation) and this is certainly going to entice some idle money,” Standard Bank’s chief trader Warrick Butler said in a note.

“A retest of 13.6500 may be on the cards now after the failure to breach 14.0000,” he added.

Data on Wednesday showed South Africa’s consumer inflation fell significantly in December, to 4.5 percent from 5.2 percent in the previous month, adding to evidence that the central bank is unlikely to raise interest rates at its next monetary policy meeting in March.

The Reserve Bank left the repo rate unchanged at 6.75 percent last week.

Government bonds firmed, as the yield on the benchmark 2026 instrument dropped 6.5 basis points to 8.785 percent.

Stock markets were on the backfoot, in contrast to many other emerging market stock indexes which gained on improved risk appetite.

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange’s Top-40 index was down 0.56 percent to 47,473 points while the broader all-share index was down 0.51 percent to 53,639 points.

Vodacom fell almost 6 percent to 121.87 rand per share, the biggest faller on the blue-chip index.

It was joined by rival MTN, which fell nearly 3 percent. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said on Thursday that the firm needs to sell shares on the local stock exchange. (Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Emma Rumney Editing by James Macharia)

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