Investors seek safe haven overseas as rand weakens

Madoda Milazi

Madoda Milazi

When the going gets tough, the tough go offshore. Or so it seems as the rand continues to haemorrhage, forcing investors to seek a safe haven abroad.

Christopher Gilmour, analysts at Absa Investments, said: "As perverse as this may sound, these people prefer the perceived safety of US treasury bonds, regardless of the fact that it has exceptionally low yields."

The last few weeks have not been pretty on global equity markets but, until recently, the rand had held up remarkably well against most currencies, including the US dollar.

"That all changed last week, however, as investors and speculators dived for cover in terms of risk aversion. Already significantly under-valued from a fundamental perspective, the rand took a big beating on Wednesday and Thursday as risk aversion spread," said Gilmour.

At one point the currency flirted at R11 to the dollar, and Gilmour said it may be some time before calm returned to the markets and this risk aversion became less of an issue.

"This current bout of weakness is not confined to the rand, nor is it purely an emerging market phenomenon either.

The Australian dollar has fared worse than the rand in the past few months, slumping by around 30percent against the US dollar since July," said Gilmour.

What can investors do to protect themselves against the depreciating rand?

Gilmour said they could apply for permission from the South African Reserve Bank to invest offshore.

"Although the process has been streamlined in recent years, a fair amount of bureaucracy still exists," he said.