No Festive Cheer Ahead for South Africa's Rand, Nedbank Says

(Bloomberg) -- An expected seasonal dollar-liquidity crunch means the outlook for South Africa’s rand is anything but merry as the year draws to a close.

Funding requirements of large European and Japanese banks going into year-end, together with the Federal Reserve’s tighter monetary policy, will probably lead to greater demand for dollars and rising offshore funding costs, according to Mehul Daya and Walter de Wet, strategists at Nedbank Group Ltd. in Johannesburg. That would weigh on the rand, one of the emerging world’s most-traded currencies, they wrote in a note to clients.

“Global dollar-liquidity shortages, both structural and seasonal, remain a key risk to the outlook for the rand,” said Daya and De Wet, who correctly predicted in June that South Africa’s currency could weaken to above 14 per dollar as global financial conditions became more restrictive. “Greater demand for U.S. dollars and rising offshore U.S. dollar funding costs, accompanied by currency volatility, will likely not bode well for the carry trade.”

Their call: “We expect the rand to be volatile, with a weakening bias toward the 14.50 rand area in the short term.” The currency gained 0.7 percent to 14.3862 per dollar at 7:32 a.m. Tuesday after sliding 0.8 percent the previous day. It has lost 14 percent against the dollar this year, more than any emerging-market peer except Argentina’s peso, Turkey’s lira and Russia’s ruble.

No Festive Cheer Ahead for South Africa's Rand, Nedbank Says

Nedbank is echoing concerns raised by the South African Reserve Bank in its biannual Financial Stability Review last week, when it said that tightening financial conditions are a “medium-likelihood” but potentially “high-impact” risk which would result in a repricing of assets, exchange-rate deterioration and rising debt.

South Africa’s currency is particularly vulnerable to emerging-market selloffs triggered by rising borrowing costs in developed countries. Daily trading in the rand is equal to about 18 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, according to Renaissance Capital. By that measure, it is the most liquid currency in the world, making it easy for traders to take bets -- and offload them in a risk-off environment.

No Festive Cheer Ahead for South Africa's Rand, Nedbank Says

The dollar squeeze, which has seen Bloomberg’s gauge of the greenback rise 8.8 percent since February, may worsen in 2019, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

“Global financial conditions will continue to tighten in 2019 as monetary policy normalization gradually proceeds in advanced economies, particularly in the U.S.,” Moody’s analysts including Anne van Praagh, Alastair Wilson and Elena Dugg wrote in a report. Emerging markets such as those like South Africa, which have limited scope to raise interest rates, “will remain vulnerable to spillovers” from “a likely further tightening of global liquidity,” they said.

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