South African rand extends losses against strong dollar

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -South Africa’s rand extended its losses against the U.S. dollar on Wednesday, as the greenback hit a one-month high due to lowered expectations that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates in March.

At 1512 GMT, the rand traded at 19.1050 against the dollar, about 0.8% weaker than its previous close, after losing more than 1% against the dollar the previous day.

The dollar was last up about 0.2% against a basket of global currencies.

The dollar has surged this week due to hawkish comments by European Central Bank and Federal Reserve officials which suggested the Fed might keep rates higher for longer.

Soft Chinese economic data on Wednesday also contributed to strengthening the dollar and weakening emerging market currencies, analysts said. China is South Africa’s biggest trading partner.

“Any USD (dollar) strength will be difficult for the ZAR (rand) to counter, so it is not surprising to see the pair back above the 19.00 handle… as investors scaled back some of their US Fed rate-cut expectations,” said ETM Analytics in a research note.

South Africa’s retail sales fell 0.9% year-on-year in November, Statistics South Africa figures showed, which was in line with expectations.

On the Johannesburg Stock Exchange the Top-40 index closed down 1.9%. The benchmark 2030 government bond was marginally weaker, as the yield rose 1.5 basis points to 9.825%.

(Reporting by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Sharon Singleton, Elaine Hardcastle)