South Africa’s Rolling Power Cuts Turn Lights Off for Rand Bulls

Electrical grid constraints are potentially impairing the region's economic outlook as investors recoil from grim infrastructure fears.

Bloomberg News

June 30, 2022

1 Min Read
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(Bloomberg) -- Power outages in South Africa have caught rand bulls off guard, with at least two long-rand recommendations hitting stop-loss levels within a week as the rand tumbled to a 20-month low.

Societe Generale SA and Credit Agricole CIB recommended short dollar positions versus the rand last week, citing rand-supportive factors such as the central bank’s hawkish stance and an expected recovery in China’s economy that would boost demand for South Africa’s raw-material exports.

But rolling blackouts imposed by Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. put paid to that as investors fret about the effect on an economy already strained by the pandemic, catastrophic floods and destructive protests. The rand is down 3.8% this week, the worst performer among 23 major emerging-market currencies tracked by Bloomberg.

The South African currency has been hard-hit by the Eskom news, though the country’s electricity crisis is nothing new, said Cristian Maggio, the London-based head of portfolio strategy at TD Securities. 

“South Africa has been dealing with power shortages for years,” Maggio said. “Only the market seems to have forgotten because of Covid, and other priorities that crept to the forefront.”

Credit Agricole recommended going short the dollar versus the rand on June 21, entering the trade at 15.9456 rand per dollar, with a stop-loss at 16.2684. It was stopped out of the trade on Wednesday when the rand weakened to 16.2965, taking a loss of 1.9%, according to Sebastien Barbe, head of emerging-market research at the lender.

SocGen entered a similar trade, also on June 21, with a stop loss at 16.35. That was breached on Thursday when the rand slumped to 16.4736, the weakest level since Oct. 2020. 

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