South African rand slips in risky trade, stocks hit record high

Adds latest figures, analyst quotes

JOHANNESBURG, January 25 (Reuters)The South African rand weakened on Monday, returning early gains from volatile trade, with sentiment swinging against riskier currencies as the reality of a slow rollout of coronavirus vaccines dampened demand.

At 15:00 GMT the rand ZAR=D3 was 0.46% lower at 15.2400 to the dollar, marking a third straight session of losses as investors took a more guarded view of the pace of the global economic rebound.

Last week, the rand clawed its way to a two-week high of 14.8600, boosted by vaccine hopes, as well as US$1.9 trillion fiscal stimulus packages. States and the likelihood that central banks in developed markets will keep liquidity taps open.

But signs of slow progress in rolling out vaccines locally and in Europe, and the impact of ongoing lockdowns, have offset those hopes.

“Price developments are likely to remain capricious as the rand is vulnerable in the near term,” Nedbank analysts said in a note. “The focus is on the potential US stimulus package, and any deviation from that could see the rand test the upper end of the ranges.”

Bonds also weakened, with the yield on the benchmark 2030 government bond ZAR2030= up 2 basis points to 8.795%.

Johannesburg Stock Exchange Top-40 Index .JTOPI hit an all-time high on Monday, driven in part by exchange heavyweight Naspers NPNJn.J and subsidiary Prosus PRXJn.J as well as retailer Woolworths WHLJ.J.

The Top 40 closed up 0.89% at 59,409 points. The expanded All-Share Index .JALSH also closed up 0.89% at 64,560 points.

Shares of Woolworths led the acquiescence, climbing just over 13% and closing nearly 11% after forecasting an unexpected rise in profits, joining other South African retailers in rebounding from a blow from the coronavirus pandemic.

It was followed by Naspers and Prosus, which closed up 6.3% and 6.1% on a similar jump in the stock of Chinese tech giant Tencent. 0700.HK. Prosus owns about a third of its shares.

(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana and Emma Rumney; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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