The rand has been the world's strongest currency against the dollar over the past three years
- The rand has gained more than 6% against the US dollar over the past three years - the best performance among major currencies worldwide.
- In truth, the currency started from a very low base: the Nenegate crisis in 2015.
- Its performance this year has not been stellar, but most experts expect it to remain below R15/$ in 2019.
Over the past three years, the rand has been the world's strongest major currency against the dollar.
The rand has strengthened by almost 6.3% against the dollar since mid-December 2015, according to data compiled by the independent analyst Johann Biermann. By comparison, the Mexican peso weakened by more than 16% and the Turkish lira lost an almighty 79% of its value. The UK pound fell almost 20% over the past three years as Brexit fears wreaked havoc.
Only the Russian rouble, which gained by 6% over this time, the euro (+3%) and the yen (+6.2%) could keep up with the rand.
It is of course worth noting that three years ago the rand was in a very bad state amid the Nenegate crisis.
On December 9th 2015, former president Jacob Zuma fired then finance minister Nhlanhla Nene, replacing him with back-bencher Des van Rooyen.
"After all is said and done, the rand has been one of the strongest currencies over the last three years - obviously benefiting from the low base created by Nenegate," Biermann said this week. "Still, not many would've predicted that the rand would outperform these majors in years to come."
Unfortunately, 2018 has been tough on the local currency: the rand has lost a painful 14.5% of its value against the dollar - on par with the rouble (-15%) and the Brazilian real (-17%). Even traditionally stable currencies - including the Australian dollar (-8%) and the euro (-6%) - took a hit.
But most currency experts are not expecting the rand to take a massive hit in 2019.
The currency is expected to end 2019 between R12 to R15 a dollar, according to almost 70% of the 160 South African-based bankers, CEOs, CFOs, corporate treasurers as well as foreign exchange and hedge fund executives polled at the Bloomberg Foreign Exchange Summit last week.
The rand will probably trade near R13.40 to the dollar by the end of next year, Standard Bank economist Elna Moolman said, according to a Bloomberg report.
"The expectation is partly based on a dollar story, but also on the assumption that we will see political and policy improvements to support a stronger currency."
Moolman said the next big local events that could influence the rand are the Budget in February, the response from Moody’s (the only agency that has not yet rated South Africa as "junk") and then the natonal elections, expected in May 2019.
If the US economy weakens and/or the equity markets fall apart, which means that the Fed won’t hike interest rates by as much as expected, the rand may benefit, according to Biermann.
“Also, sentiment towards emerging markets has been very negative in 2018. If it starts to turn, the rand will get a boost."
But there are risks – chief among them, Eskom’s R100 billion debt burden.
“If government took over the debt, our credit rating will be further downgraded – which will be negative for the rand.”
Ratings agencies have also been clear that further slippage in terms of property rights could prompt downgrades, Biermann said.
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