LONDON, June 9 (Reuters) – South Africa’s high-flying rand held its ground on Wednesday, after better-than-expected economic growth data the previous day had bolstered hopes of an improvement in the country’s finances.
In early trading, the rand, which is the world’s top performing major emerging market currency this year, was flat at 13.56 per dollar and just off a 28-month high hit on Friday.
Strong first quarter GDP data on Tuesday had showed a 4.6% quarter on quarter gain. It was ahead of consensus expectations for a 3.2% jump and analysts at JPMorgan said it kept the economy on course for a 5% growth spurt this year and a 2.5% expansion in 2022.
It has triggered debate about whether the country’s central bank could begin lifting interest rates as early as next month, although many analysts still forecast November or later for the first increase.
With the boom in commodity markets helping growth and narrowing the government’s still-wide fiscal deficit, “they have accidentally got themselves into a good position,” said Royal London Asset Management’s Head of Global Credit Azhar Hussain.
“But from a debt perspective a lot of the issues are still there,” he added, pointing to ongoing need to support state-owned power firm Eskom.
South Africa’s main stock market is also up 13% this year, although it has been moving in a 59,500-63,200 points range for the last few months.
“The (economic) recovery is broadening with the exception of construction, transport and accommodation with mining the clear outperformer,” JPMorgan said in a note to clients. “Yet private sector (and state-owned enterprise) fixed investment spending continue to lag.”