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SA rand tumbles against dollar as sentiment turns against emerging markets

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SA rand tumbles against dollar as sentiment turns against emerging markets

Photo by Bloomberg

13th August 2018

By: African News Agency

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South Africa's rand fell over eight percent to its weakest level in more than two years against the US dollar on Monday, breaching the 15.00 mark as turmoil in Turkey turned investors against emerging market currencies.

The rand's depreciation, which took it to around 15.40 against the dollar at one point, reflected weakness in the Turkish lira in the wake of sanctions imposed by the United States, with other emerging market currencies such as Argentina's peso also affected.

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Tensions between the two countries have risen over Turkey's detention of a US pastor.

Investors tend to dump emerging market assets, which are perceived as carrying higher risk, during episodes of geopolitical tensions.

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By around 08:30 am the rand had recovered to 14.30 versus the dollar.

While the slide in the rand had caused domestic panic, with some analysts attributing it to South African failures, the reality was more complex, said Bianca Botes, corporate treasury manager at Peregrine Treasury Solutions, citing a global trade war as one of the main reasons.

"The first key element to note is that this is not confined to South Africa. The trade war has played a key role in the global economic dynamic and the effect we have witnessed on emerging markets," Botes said in a note.

"Initially starting as a spat between China and the US, this is now a full blown trade war filled with retaliation in terms of tariffs from countries across the globe. Turkey, a key player in the emerging market sector, is the latest target with US President Donald Trump doubling tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminium imports."

"While emerging markets all operate individually, they remain interconnected by classification, a sell-off in one emerging market spills over into other emerging market countries that offer liquidity, such as South Africa," Botes added.

At a summit of heads of state from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) last week, several delegates including Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that the trade war would be damaging to the global economy and that ultimately there would be no winners.

South Africa also ranks among the most vulnerable countries to investor risk aversion due to its sluggish economic growth and high levels of debt.

The economy has failed to expand above one percent for several years now, with analysts pointing in large part to mismanagement by the government of former president Jacob Zuma, who was forced to step down in February amid allegations of graft. He denies being corrupt.

More recently, Zuma's successor Cyril Ramaphosa has signalled that his governing African National Congress (ANC) will press on with plans to amend the Constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation, a move critics say will leave investors worried about property rights.

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