South Africa’s rand recovers as soft U.S. data weighs on dollar

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s rand strengthened against the dollar on Thursday as soft U.S. housing and jobs data weighed on the dollar, adding uncertainty over the timing of a rate rise from the Federal Reserve.

At 1530 GMT, the rand was trading 0.61 percent firmer at 11.9925 to the dollar, compared with an overnight close of 12.0320 in New York.

“The U.S. data is very soft, so that’s supporting the trend of slight bearing of dollar longs, with guys being less convinced that the Fed will be able to maintain a hawkish stance,” said Rob Price, a market analyst at ETM Analytics.

U.S. housing starts rose far less than expected in March, recording their biggest drop since last May and raising concerns over the economy’s ability to bounce back from a soft patch hit in the first quarter of 2015.

Locally, South Africa faced power cuts for a fifth straight day while attacks on immigrants continued, casting a cloud over the economy.

Traders said the continued power shortages and widespread attacks on foreign nationals could strain sentiment and appetite for the local currency if the issues persisted.

Local government bonds tracked the currency stronger, with the benchmark paper due in 2026 dropping 2 basis points to 7.775 percent.

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