JOHANNESBURG: South Africa's rand weakened against the dollar on Monday and will likely remain under pressure as news of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's death sent investors to safe-haven assets such as the US currency.
The rand was poised to end the year down more than 20 percent against the dollar, battered by risk aversion as the euro zone debt crisis deepened.
Ratings agency Fitch warned on Friday it might downgrade France and six other euro zone countries as it believed a comprehensive solution to the region's debt crisis was "technically and politically beyond reach", making investors even more cautious.
The rand was trading at 8.3850 against the dollar, not far from Friday's New York close of 8.3750.
"Given dollar/rand's sensitivity to the euro we wouldn't rule out wide swings, especially with thinning liquidity. Fresh risk aversion could see it test this year highs at 8.60 once again," market analysts 4CAST said in a note.
The rand hit 2-1/2 year lows at 8.61 in November and has remained vulnerable, failing to break firmer than than the psychologically key level of 8.00/dollar despite several attempts.
With some dealers off for holidays, trading volumes will be thinner, rendering the currency vulnerable to wide moves.
Stocks looked set to open weaker, with the JSE's Top-40 March futures contract down more than one percent before the start of trade.
Government bonds were largely steady, with the 2015 bond up one basis point to 6.95 percent and that on the 2026 issue unchanged from the previous close at 8.705 percent.