The rand’s admirable comeback following its unceremonious freefall to begin 2011 (from trough to peak it depreciated from 6.6275 on January 3 to 7.3365 on February 15 against the dollar–making it, aside from Suriname, the world’s worst performer per Bloomberg–but has since rebounded and closed Thursday in Joburg to 6.8855) may have run its course, especially given that January’s manufacturing growth figures (up 1.3% y/y versus 1.9% consensus) missed the mark.  Moreover, though recent PMI data and business confidence have created some supply side momentum in the face of comparatively vigorous demand underpinned by relatively subdued core inflation and low interest rates (5.5 percent after three cuts last year), analysts remain skeptical over how quickly the South African Reserve Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee can go hawkish.  To that end, “the poor growth we continue to observe in sectors such as construction are still likely to leave the SARB MPC with a sense that a more ‘broad-based’ economic recovery is needed before interest rates can be hiked,” Absa Capital noted.  Finally, two additional dynamics remain in play that would suggest selling ZAR on strength: one, reverberations from last year’s outflow easing policy has spurred a greater-than-expected institutional offshore appetite whose scope remains uncertain.  Two, the Reserve Bank shows no signs of taking its foot off the FX coffer accelerator.

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