March 23, 2020 / 7:25 AM / 4 months ago

South Africa's rand on the ropes as virus fears mount

JOHANNESBURG, March 23 (Reuters) - South Africa’s rand weakened early on Monday, threatening to breakthrough a lifetime low against the dollar as concerns over increasing coronavirus infections and the likely announcement of stricter measures weighed on already shaky sentiment.

At 0700 GMT the rand traded 1.2% weaker at 17.7380 per dollar against a close of 17.5310 on Friday, edging closer to an all-time worst level of 17.9950 reached in late 2015.

With a review of its last investment grade credit rating by Moody’s due on Friday and coronavirus infections jumping above 240 in a matter of two weeks, sentiment towards the rand and other local assets is set to remain on the ropes.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected address the nation on Monday after holding meetings over the weekend with political parties, business leaders and the National Command Council on the coronavirus outbreak.

Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster on March 15, and was due to announce additional measures on Sunday evening, but the address was pushed back, stoking speculation that he was preparing to announce a national shutdown.

Bonds continued to tumble, with the government issue due in 2030 adding 31.5 basis points to 11.985%. (Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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