S.African rand slips as Middle East conflict spurs risk aversion

By Tannur Anders

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -The South African rand weakened on Monday as violence in the Middle East stoked risk aversion in global markets while traders awaited release of the national census due this week.

At 1510 GMT, the rand traded at 19.4100 against the dollar, more than 0.6% weaker than its Friday close.

“Trade in the rand will likely remain cautious as markets wait to see how the Middle East situation develops,” said TreasuryONE currency strategist Andre Cilliers.

The U.S. dollar strengthened against a basket of global currencies as clashes escalated between Israeli forces and Palestinian militant group Hamas, sending investors scurrying towards the safety of the greenback.

“While South Africa is geographically far removed from the Israel/Gaza conflict, (it) is not deemed to have shown complete neutrality towards the Russian/Ukraine war and concerns exist that this may be repeated, which would undermine the rand further,” Investec economist Annabel Bishop said in a research note.

South Africa’s statistics agency will on Tuesday release data from the country’s 2022 census, the fourth population and housing survey in post-apartheid South Africa and the first in over a decade.

It is expected to give a comprehensive analysis of the economy that will help improve planning and development in Africa’s most industrialised economy.

Market focus will be on the data for clues on the South African economy and the country’s struggle with high unemployment.

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange held its ground, with the blue-chip Top-40 index closing flat.

South Africa’s benchmark 2030 government bond was weaker, with the yield up 4 basis points at 10.930%.

(Reporting by Tannur Anders, Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)