Rand strengthens by 10c to the dollar after Gigaba gives assurances on budget deficit

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba.
Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba.
Image: Esa Alexander

The rand firmed against major global currencies on Wednesday afternoon‚ after Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba promised to protect the integrity of the fiscus‚ announcing R85.7bn in spending cuts over the next three years.

The government had made "significant changes" to the fiscal framework‚ hiking VAT and cutting expenditure to reduce the deficit to 3.5% by the 2020-21 financial year‚ Gigaba said.

"These fiscal proposals will cause discomfort‚ but are necessary to protect the integrity of the fiscus."

After trading at about R11.72 to the dollar shortly before Gigaba began speaking‚ the rand reached an intra-day best of R11.6247 before paring gains.

At 3.31pm‚ the rand was at R11.6555 to the dollar from Tuesday’s R11.7301‚ R14.3442 to the euro from R14.4706‚ and at R16.2331 to the pound from R16.4173. The euro was at $1.2308 from $1.2336.

The budget deficit is being closely watched ahead of Moody’s next rating determination‚ scheduled for March. Should Moody’s downgrade SA’s credit rating to sub-investment grade‚ local bonds will fall off international bond indices‚ prompting automatic selling by institutional investors.

Moody’s should respond to the budget in the coming days‚ which should prompt further rand volatility‚ analysts said.

Global focus is on the minutes for the US Federal Reserve’s January meeting‚ expected at 9pm South African time. The minutes will be closely scrutinised for signals on future interest-rate increases. Some market participants expect four rate rises this year‚ as opposed to the Fed’s forward guidance of three.

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba delivered his annual budget speech in Parliament on February 21 2018. Here are the highlights.

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