South African rand lifted by talk of Fed rate cuts

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -The South African rand gained on Wednesday after a U.S. Federal Reserve official flagged a possible interest rate cut in the coming months, while the local central bank said systemic risks to financial stability remained elevated.

The rand traded at 18.5700 against the dollar at 1530 GMT, about 0.2% stronger than its previous close.

Hints about a rate cut from Christopher Waller – an influential and previously hawkish voice at the U.S. central bank – buoyed risk-sensitive currencies worldwide.

“The rand has recovered smartly off the lows reached last week, capitalising on broad-based dollar weakness as short-end U.S. Treasury yields dropped to levels last seen in July. This followed more talk from Fed officials about rate cuts,” said Danny Greeff at ETM Analytics.

Greeff said traders would wait to see if Fed Chair Jerome Powell will use a speech on Friday to also lay the groundwork for rate cuts.

“Should he (Powell) do so, the rand would likely gain more bullish impetus into the weekend …, South Africa’s idiosyncratic risks notwithstanding,” Greeff added.

The South African Reserve Bank’s biannual health check on the financial system on Wednesday flagged increasing government debt levels and servicing costs as concerns, along with the impact of being put on a “grey list” by a global financial crime watchdog.

The benchmark 2030 government bond was stronger, the yield down 11 basis points at 9.915%. The Johannesburg Stock Exchange’s Top-40 index closed around 0.4% lower.

(Reporting by Tannur Anders and Alexander Winning; Editing by Bernadette Baum)