July 6, 2017 / 6:15 PM / in 2 years

S.African rand dragged lower by cenbank policy row, stocks down

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s rand weakened on Thursday as investor fretted over policy uncertainties including the independence of the central bank, although traders eyeing short positions and betting on further weakness helped it claw back some ground.

A five rand coin is displayed by a South African Reserve Bank employee, file.

Stocks retreated along with markets in Europe and the United States.

By 1500 GMT the rand had weakened 0.2 percent to 13.4250 per dollar, off a session low of 13.5075, as inconclusive U.S. Federal Reserve minutes kept the dollar near one-week highs.

The dollar then turned weaker after softer-than-expected private jobs data, but overall sentiment toward local assets remained uneasy after the corruption watchdog said on Thursday she would oppose legal challenges to her recommendation to change the central bank’s mandate.

The rand hit a seven-week trough after the ruling African National Congress failed to agree a clear plan to get the economy out of recession, with pledges to nationalise the central bank and expropriate land set to stoke fears further.

On the stock market, the JSE’s Top-40 index fell 0.52 percent to 46,000 points while the broader All-share index dropped 0.38 percent to 52,285 points.

Bourse heavyweight Naspers fell 1.41 percent to 2494.00 rand after its Indian unit Flipkart saw its initial takeover offer rejected by India’s third-placed e-commerce firm Snapdeal.

Luxury goods maker Richemont was down 2.27 percent to 107.55 rand as more than half of the JSE’s blue-chip stocks lost ground.

“It’s a broad-based sell off, we’ve seen Europe lows and the Dow and the S&P [are] down fairly sharply,” said NorthShore Capital fund manager Mark Loubser.

The negative press about the uncertainty surrounding the ANC’s policy direction could also be weighing on stocks, he added.

Bonds were weaker with the yield on the benchmark paper due in 2026 rising 5.5 basis points to 8.915 percent.

Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana and Olwethu Boso; Editing by Catherine Evans

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