South Africa: Rand hits eight-month high in November on Biden win and positive Covid-19 vaccine trials
November 16, 2020
The South African rand (ZAR) posted strong gains against the U.S. dollar over the past month, largely reflecting improved market sentiment following Joe Biden’s win in the U.S. presidential election and optimistic Covid-19 vaccine developments. On 9 November, the rand hit an eight-month high of 15.37 ZAR per USD, before weakening somewhat and trading at 15.60 ZAR per USD on 13 November, which marked a 6.0% appreciation over the previous month. Despite this upturn, the rand remained down 4.3% year-on-year and 10.3% year-to-date.
The currency was primarily buoyed over the past month by a higher risk appetite for emerging-market assets. A weakened greenback after Joe Biden’s win in the U.S. presidential elections and increased hopes of a more stable U.S. foreign policy stance ahead drove investors towards higher-yielding assets, which supported demand for the ZAR. Moreover, market sentiment was lifted by positive results from several Covid-19 vaccine trials, improving expectations of a global economic recovery and a gradual return to normality. Furthermore, positive PMI data for the South African manufacturing sector in October provided a further boost to the currency, as firms continued to reopen following the easing of lockdown conditions.
Moving forward, the rand is currently forecast to weaken from current levels as a prolonged public health crisis and the frail economic backdrop are set to weigh on the currency. Further ahead, the ZAR should regain some ground as the economy bounces back from the coronavirus-induced downturn.
Author: Hanna Andersson, Economist