Rand crashes through R16/$, gold takes knock

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Photo: Getty
Photo: Getty

The rand took a hard hit on Tuesday, falling through R16 against the dollar.

In early afternoon, it was trading at R16.04/$, its weakest level since mid-December. The currency was slightly stronger against the euro (R18.11), but fell against the pound (R21.66).

Dollar/rand rate. Source: XE

The dollar has been advancing against other currencies for a second day, as global investors looked ahead to Wednesday's release of minutes from the Federal Reserve's December policy meeting, hoping for insight into its plans amid surging inflation that has been forcing central banks to wind back pandemic stimulus and raise interest rates.

The Fed has already started tapering its bond-buying programme, and the focus is now on what it will do with interest rates, with some commentators predicting three US hikes before 2023.

The yen slumped to a five-year low on Tuesday.

The gold price was steady after posting its biggest drop in six weeks on Monday, as US bond yields surged, with investors bracing for monetary policy tightening in 2022. 

Ten-year Treasuries had the worst start to a year in more than a decade, with rates rising 12 basis points on Monday, the largest first-day jump since 2009, according to Bloomberg data. Higher yields diminish the appeal of non-interest bearing havens like gold.

Strong equity markets

Meanwhile, global stock markets rallied on Tuesday as investors bet on reduced economic fallout from the Omicron variant, while oil prices edged higher before a key OPEC output meeting.

The JSE's All Share Index gained more than 1.3%, with Aspen up more than 6%.

Global traders kept a close watch also over high inflation concerns and potential fallout stemming from embattled Chinese property giant Evergrande.

London kicked off its 2022 trading with strong gains for the travel sector, while the British pound reached a near two-year high versus the euro.

"The FTSE 100 has set off on a sprint of New Year optimism, shaking off worries of inflation and concerns about the Chinese property market," noted Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

"Stocks reliant on international travel are powering ahead, with British Airways owner, International Consolidated Airlines Group, rising seven percent in early trade."

While Covid-19 variant Omicron is spreading like wildfire around the world, it appears to be far less severe than initially feared, raising hopes that the pandemic could be overcome.

However, inflation, supply chain snags, central bank policy tightening and geopolitical woes continue to weigh on sentiment and analysts have warned that the blockbuster stock market gains seen in recent years could be tougher to attain.

Despite the strong start, "we expect 2022 to be far more challenging from an investment perspective", said Heather Wald of Bel Air Investment Advisors.

"Rarely has a market delivered three consecutive years of double-digit returns, as we have seen from 2019-2021."

European and Asian equity markets enjoyed strong gains Tuesday following fresh all-time highs on Wall Street on Monday.

The Nasdaq rallied thanks to a surge in big-name stars including Apple, which briefly became the first firm valued at $3 trillion.

Shares in indebted Evergrande rallied Tuesday after a day-long suspension, as the company confirmed it had been ordered to demolish part of a resort in Hainan province.

OPEC+ meets 

Elsewhere, OPEC and its allies are expected on Tuesday to maintain their practice of modestly boosting oil output as the rapidly spreading Omicron variant has so far not heavily hit demand.

The OPEC+ grouping, including top producers Saudi Arabia and Russia, has resisted pressure to more widely open the taps as high energy prices are fuelling a surge in inflation across the world.

- Additional reporting by Bloomberg and Fin24

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