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Markets

South African assets weak, hit by outlook downgrade

JOHANNESBURG: The rand opened the week on the back foot against the dollar, hit by Fitch's outlook downgrade on South Af
16 Jan 2012

 JOHANNESBURG: The rand opened the week on the back foot against the dollar, hit by Fitch's outlook downgrade on South Africa announced late in Friday's trade that said the country was not doing enough to address chronic problems dragging down Africa's largest economy.

The currency is expected to have a tough week as global risk sentiment deteriorates due to a massive European downgrade also on Friday, and as local data due this week is seen as weak.

The US market is away for a national holiday on Monday, which should see less liquidity in the market and likely exaggerate rand moves.

The rand was down 0.62 percent against the dollar to 8.175 by 0641 GMT. It closed Friday at 8.125 in New York, after tumbling to 8.2249 in local trade after Fitch cut South Africa's rating outlook to negative from stable.

"It's all about Europe and the downgrades there and what Fitch did with our negative ratings watch. We're still reeling from Friday," said David Gracey, a currency trader with Investec.

"I suspect that we'll see a little bit of exporter activity this morning, which might drive the rand back down to sort of 8.12/13, but I think over the medium term, we can still hit weaker," Gracey added.

Tradition Analytics said the outlook downgrade was not surprising and much of would have already been priced in.

Yields on government bonds were up 3 basis points each to 6.825 percent on the 2015 issue and 8.595 percent on the 2026 bond.

The first batch of data is inflation on Wednesday, which is expected to stay above 6 percent. The purchasing managers' index will come out after inflation to give clues about output, then retail sales, which previously came out weaker, will end the day.

Thursday sees the central bank make its first monetary policy announcement for the year. The consensus of 25 economists polled by Reuters is for rates to remain unchanged.

Copyright Reuters, 2012