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7 things that affected the rand in 2018

Dec 30 2018 10:30
Lameez Omarjee, Fin24

The rand has had an eventful year. Presently trading at the R14.30/$ level, it is easy to forget that at one point this year, it was trading at R11.90 to the greenback.

Here are some of the events that had a significant impact on the rand this year:

1. Ramaphoria, Zuma's ousting

Having weakened below R14.50/$ on former president Jacob Zuma's announcement that there would be fee-free higher education during the ANC elective conference last year, the rand rallied to levels below R12.30/$ following Cyril Ramaphosa's election as ANC president.

The local unit kept the momentum going into January, on expectations that Zuma would be ousted as president of the republic. The rand's movements were range-bound between R12.20 to R12.50 as political rumours swirled, with markets keeping watch of the battle between the two powers - one in the ruling party and the other as head of the country.

At one point the currency almost rallied 13 cents to the dollar on reports of Elon Musk's SpaceX mission code named Zuma was lost – which markets had misinterpreted as the president resigning.

When Zuma eventually resigned in February, the rand rallied to its highest level in two and a half years- R11.70/$. The last time the currency had traded at these low levels was in March 2015.

2. Budgets, Cabinet changes


The rand rallied to three-year highs as Ramaphosa was sworn in as president, days later former finance minister Malusi Gigaba delivered the national budget in Parliament.

Ahead of the budget the rand remained below the R12/$ level, and there was talk of it breaking below R11.50/$ on Ramaphosa's imminent Cabinet reshuffle.

The rand held study as Nhlanhla Nene returned to the position of finance minister.

Shortly after, the rand corrected on land reform debates and dollar strength.

3. Land reform

The National Assembly is seen.

August proved to be an eventful month for the rand, as its volatility was driven by land reform announcements and the Turkish lira's meltdown.

In early August the rand lost 16c to the dollar, on the back of an announcement by Ramaphosa that the ruling ANC would move to change the Constitution as it relates to land expropriation without compensation. This was still subject to a parliamentary review.

At the time markets had expected the rand to break below R13/$, but the announcement created uncertainty and dealt the currency a blow. The rand continued to trade at levels around R13.30/$, with analysts warning of its vulnerability to political headwinds.

Later in August the currency weakened as much as 1.7%, as Trump tweeted that he asked US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to look into "land and farm seizures and expropriations" in SA, Bloomberg reported.

The Joint Constitutional Review Committee has since adopted a resolution to amend Section 25 of the Constitution to allow expropriation without compensation.

4. Emerging market rout

A handout photo taken and released on August 13, 2

The Turkish lira hit record lows in August, which triggered an emerging market sell-off. Markets were concerned over Turkey's economic policy as its inflation hit 16%, Bloomberg reported. There was also a political spat between Turkey and the US.

The rand reached its weakest level in nine months, breaching the R14/$ mark, as emerging market currencies dragged each other down.

The rand weakened as much as R15.70/$, as the Turkish meltdown continued.

Turkey eventually announced interest rate hikes to curb inflation – which saw the rand recover to levels close to R14/$.

5. Economic stimulus package

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his closing rem

Analysts had expected Ramaphosa's economic stimulus package, announced in September to boost the rand, and they were optimistic it could reach the R14/$ mark.

At the time it was released, the unit firmed to R14.19/$, before weakening slightly to R14.36/$.

The rand remained range-bound between R14.18/$ to R14.45/$ during the session.

6. The return of Tito Mboweni 'sha-sha'

Tito Mboweni, South African Minister of Finance wa

Uncertainty over the finance minister post saw the rand testing the R15/$ level. There had been reports that Nene resigned following his testimony before the State Capture inquiry that he had met with members of the Gupta family.

The currency steadily made gains on the news that Ramaphosa would hold a briefing on the matter.

The president confirmed Nene's resignation at the briefing, where he also named former Reserve Bank Governor Tito Mboweni as Nene's successor.

Ahead of the briefing, the rand was trading at R14.75, and held firm following the president's announcement.

Mboweni soon delivered the mini-budget speech, where he shared Treasury's projections that debt would peak to 60% of GDP by 2023/24. The currency weakened 2.2% on the back of the mini budget having reversed the 0.8% gains made ahead of the budget.

7. Trade wars

US-China trade war

Geopolitical developments have had a greater bearing on the rand than local developments. Trumps comments on the Iran nuclear deal, his meeting with the North Korean president, his tweet about land reform and the threat of a trade war with China saw the local unit and other emerging market currencies take a few beatings.

The rand started edging closer to the R13/$ mark in May. In June, Trump announced new tariffs on Chinese imports. The rand came under pressure to levels as low as R13.90/$.

Most recently, following the G20 summit, the two largest economies reached a trade truce, which saw the rand gain nearly 2%.

The rand continues to move on developments in these trade relations.

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