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South Africa's rand hits 2-week high after court rules Zuma can face corruption charges

Key Points
  • Rand outpaces EM peers after Zuma charges reinstated
  • Bonds, stocks largely unaffected

South Africa's rand climbed to its firmest level in two weeks, driven higher by a court ruling on Friday that upheld corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma, a weaker dollar and a global surge in risk appetite.

At 0820 GMT the rand had raced 0.74 percent to 13.3775 per dollar, outpacing fellow emerging market currencies that made modest gains in early trade.

South African president Jacob Zuma
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

The rand was on the front in early trade but then raced to a session best 13.3625 shortly after South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal upheld a ruling by a lower court to reinstate corruption charges against Zuma.

"Today the catalyst for the rand's positive moves has definitely been that court ruling," said currency strategist at IG Markets Shaun Murison.

"The strength we saw earlier this week was from external factors and demand for EM's. Today there is a disconnect with what we are seeing in other emerging currencies and the strength in the rand," Murison said.

What's happening in Zuma's South Africa?

In a list of 17 emerging market currencies tracked by Reuters, the rand was by far the best performer, with only the Russian rouble and Polish zloty the nearest with gains of around 0.2 percent.

The ruling has piled further pressure on Zuma, who is already facing several scandals. Zuma denies any wrongdoing.

Bonds were unmoved by the court decision, with the yield benchmark paper due in 2026 down 2.5 basis points at 8.65 percent.

Stocks were steady, with the Top-40 index and the wider All-Share index down 0.1 percent and 0.08 percent respectively.

The banking index, considered a barometer of political sentiment, had inched up 0.15 percent.