South Africa: Rand tumbles on slew of worrisome news
August 16, 2019
On 16 August, the rand traded at 15.23 per USD, a 8.7% depreciation from the same day in July. The rand was also down 5.6% on a year-to-date basis and was down 4.1% over the same month of the previous year.
On 26 July, Fitch Ratings lowered South Africa’s credit rating from stable to negative due to growing strains on the public purse owing to higher spending—notably linked to increased support to heavily-indebted state-owned enterprises—and lackluster economic activity. Fitch’s move came after the government unveiled another bailout package for Eskom in Parliament three days before, amounting to an extra ZAR 26 billion this financial year and ZAR 33 billion for next financial year (USD 4.2 billion over two years). On 30 July, Eskom, the state-owned power utility provider, announced a record loss for the year through to March, although it was still smaller than was initially expected. On the same day, the country’s Statistical Institute revealed that the unemployment rate reached an over-15 year high in Q2, piling further downward pressure on the currency. Since the beginning of August, the rand has plummeted on the increasing likelihood of Moody’s downgrading the country’s credit rating to junk status after the government announced huge additional bailout funds for Eskom and signs of a deteriorating global economic environment.