South Africa’s rand weakened for a third day, breaching 11 per dollar for the first time since February, on speculation the Federal Reserve may be set to raise interest rates as the U.S. economy recovers.
The rand declined 0.3 percent to 10.9555 per dollar as of 1:31 p.m. in Johannesburg after falling as low as 11.0162, the weakest level since Feb. 21. A measure of rand volatility reached its highest level in three months.
Investors are betting South Africa’s central bank will leave its policy rate unchanged next week even as economic data from the U.S. back the case for a rate rise that would lure investment to the dollar. South Africa’s current-account deficit widened in the second quarter, a report showed yesterday.
“A lot depends on next week’s rate announcement — that’s going to be crucial for the rand,” Ion de Vleeschauwer, chief dealer at Bidvest bank Ltd., said by phone from Johannesburg. “The market has discounted that we’ll not see a rate increase.”
The Monetary Policy Committee, which has lifted the policy rate 75 basis points to 5.75% in two moves this year, will announce its decision on Sept. 18. Forward-rate agreements, used to speculate on interest rates, are predicting less than a 50 percent chance of another increase.
The dollar strengthened against most of its higher-yielding peers today and rose to the most in six years versus the yen on expectations U.S. employment data tomorrow will support arguments for a rate increase next year, damping investor demand for emerging-market assets.
Foreign investors sold a net 1.8 billion rand of South African bonds yesterday, the biggest outflow in a day since Aug. 22. South Africa depends on investment in its bond and stock markets to finance its current-account deficit, which swelled to 6.2 percent of gross domestic product in the three months through June.