South African rand firmer in light trade, but down 7.5% in 2023

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s rand strengthened in thin trade on the last day of trading for the year on Friday, helped by positive domestic economic data.

At 1320 GMT, the rand traded at 18.40 against the US dollar, about 0.8% stronger than its previous close.

But the rand is down about 7.5% against the US dollar this year as severe power cuts, logistical constraints at South African ports, strained government finances and global risk-aversion took their toll.

Revenue service data on Friday showed South Africa recorded a trade surplus of 21.02 billion rand ($1.14 billion) in November compared with a revised deficit of 12.88 billion rand in October.

The country’s budget deficit narrowed to 17.81 billion rand in November compared with the same month a year earlier, Treasury figures showed.

On the stock market, the Top-40 index closed up 0.6%, while the broader all-share ended around 0.5% higher.

South Africa’s benchmark 2030 government bond was weaker, with the yield up 4.5 basis points to 9.770%.

($1 = 18.4038 rand)

(Reporting by Bhargav Acharya. Editing by Jane Merriman)