South African rand lifted by Chinese growth; stocks flat

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s rand firmed on Wednesday as an unexpected rise in economic growth in major trading partner China boosted demand for emerging market currencies worldwide.

A street money changer counts South African Rands in Harare, Zimbabwe, May 5, 2016. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
At 1600 GMT the rand was 0.1 percent firmer at 14.0150 per dollar, with reduced trading volumes ahead of the Easter public holidays amplifying moves.

China’s economy grew at a better-than-forecast 6.4 percent in the first quarter, defying expectations for a further slowdown and spurring appetite for assets from commodity-driven economies like South Africa which supply China with raw materials.

The rand did not react sharply to local data releases for consumer inflation and retail sales, which pointed to a slight pickup in price pressures against a backdrop of sluggish economic growth.

Government bonds were slightly stronger, with the yield on the benchmark 2026 bond falling 2 basis points to 8.445 percent.

Johannesburg-listed stocks closed broadly flat, after spending most of the session in the red as commodity stocks were dragged lower by gold prices holding near 2019 lows.

Among the gainers was Sibanye-Stillwater, which rose 6.59 percent to 14.40 rand after the miner and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union agreed to a wage settlement.

Lonmin, which Sibanye has proposed to buy, also rose on the news, closing 7.15 percent firmer at 13.49 rand.

The retail index closed 0.75 percent higher after better-than expected retail sales, with Clicks leading the sector, up 3.99 percent after strong health and beauty product sales drove up half-year earnings by 13.2 percent.

Private healthcare group Mediclinic International closed 5.53 percent at 59.52 rand after it reassured investors with a forecast for net profit that was in line with market expectations despite a tough business backdrop.

The Top-40 index closed 0.05 percent lower at 52,561 points, while the broader All-Share Index was flat at 58,908 points.

Reporting by Naledi Mashishi, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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