January 23, 2020 / 3:32 PM / 4 months ago

UPDATE 1-S.Africa's rand, stocks dip on virus fears

(Updates prices, adds stocks)

JOHANNESBURG, Jan 23 (Reuters) - South Africa’s rand and stocks fell on Thursday, as world markets dropped on mounting concern over a coronavirus outbreak in China.

At 1444 GMT, the rand traded at 14.4000 versus the dollar, 0.56% lower than its previous close.

The rand’s losses ate into some of the gains made on Wednesday, when demand for riskier assets had rebounded.

While it has struggled with a weak economy — both the International Monetary Fund and the South African Reserve Bank downgraded their growth predictions in recent days — and rolling power cuts, on Thursday the rand largely reflected trends on global markets.

Shares fell worldwide and Chinese stocks took their biggest tumble in more than eight months, with investors abandoning riskier currencies like the rand for safe havens like the Swiss franc and the yen.

China put two major cities on lockdown on Thursday amid an outbreak of the flu-like virus that has killed 17 people and infected nearly 600, with health officials concerned the transmission rate will accelerate during an upcoming holiday.

Stocks also suffered, with the Johannesburg Stock Exchange’s Top-40 index closing 1.87% lower at 50,848 points and the broader all-share index finishing down 1.75% at 56,895 points.

Even gold producers struggled to benefit from the usual boost to their share prices from a shift to safe havens like gold, with only Goldfields and AngloGold Ashanti up, and both less than 1% higher.

Government bonds were flat, with the yield on the benchmark 2026 bond at 8.135%. (Reporting by Alexander Winning and Emma Rumney; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Catherine Evans)

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