‘Perfect storm’ hits the rand as South Africa faces possibility of 100 days of load shedding

South Africa’s rand weakened the most in five months and benchmark bonds sold off as rolling power cuts, flood damage and signs of a Covid comeback added to worries about the country’s economic outlook.

As global concern over rising US interest rates sent emerging-market currencies into reverse, the rand weakened more than 2% against the dollar on Tuesday (19 April), the biggest daily decline among the asset class.

South Africa’s state power utility warned the country may have more than 100 days of electricity blackouts this year because of outages. The government will ask parliament for additional funding of R1 billion ($68 million) to repair infrastructure damaged by deadly floods in KwaZulu Natal province.

This hampers plans to reduce the budget deficit and curb government debt, a key factor preventing credit-rating upgrades. In addition, growing evidence of a resurgence of Covid “could complicate” South Africa’s economic recovery, said Brendan McKenna, a currency strategist at Wells Fargo Securities in New York.

The rand slumped as much as 2.4% to R15.0014 per dollar, the lowest in nearly a month, by 15h47 in New York. The currency is headed for the biggest daily drop since November. Meantime, the yields on 2032 government bonds climbed 17 basis points to 10.28%.

“There were some pretty severe floods in South Africa recently that caused a fair amount of damage,” McKenna said. “Looks like the government is asking for funds to start rebuilding, which could add to the debt burden and fiscal deficit.”

He said that public finances in the country were “already in bad shape, so that could be weighing on the currency too.”

Treasury yields surged Tuesday as inflation fueled by the war in Ukraine and supply-chain chaos bolstered expectations for tightening by the Federal Reserve, strengthening the dollar.

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‘Perfect storm’ hits the rand as South Africa faces possibility of 100 days of load shedding