S.African retailers suffer as rand hammered

* Rand at 3-1/2 yr low

* Retailers sold off, mining recovers

By Helen Nyambura-Mwaura

JOHANNESBURG, Oct 8 (Reuters) - South African shares edged lower on Monday after the rand weakened more than 2 percent, hitting retailers reliant on dollar-denominated imports such as Mr Price , but rewarding exporters producing in the local currency.

Investors also punished AVI Ltd , a consumer foods maker that also sells designer brands such as Kurt Geiger and Carvela shoes, pushing it 7.3 percent lower to 56.45 rand.

The rand tumbled to a 3-1/2 year low on Monday, losing as much as 2.4 percent to a low of 8.9950 per dollar, just shy of a key psychological level at 9.

"All the retailers that are importing are getting knocked down quite aggressively whereas all the rand hedges that are producing in rand and exporting in dollars are up today," said Robert Towell, a senior portfolio manager at Consilium Capital.

The Top-40 index shaved off 0.55 percent to 32,183.45 while the All-Share lost 0.69 percent to 36,337.39.

Clothing and home goods seller Mr Price plummeted 9 percent to 116 rand. Grocers Pick N Pay and Shoprite lost over 4 percent to 41.95 and 157.62 rand respectively.

BofA Merrill Lynch on Monday dropped cut its rating on South Africa's consumer firms to neutral from overweight. The sector has been popular with foreign investors despite local analysts' protests that it was overvalued.

"We put the long-loved SA consumer theme on neutral," the brokerage said.

"Throw in the negative South Africa specific strike headlines and we find the case for near term outperformance to have largely disappeared."

Mining firms, which are reeling from a series of wildcat strikes that started in the platinum sector and spread to other companies and beyond the industry, recovered marginally.

Some 75,000 miners have downed tools, pushing precious metal prices higher.

Gold miners gained nearly 2 percent with South Africa's third-largest producer Harmony up 3 percent at 69.56 rand.

Impala Platinum added 2.7 percent to 143.82 rand and Anglo American Platinum gained over 1 percent to 403 rand, despite purging 12,000 wildcat strikers from its payroll on Friday.

Steelmaker Arcelor Mittal ended trade 1.8 percent stronger at 40.44 rand, minutes before it announced that a supplier, Sishen Iron Ore Company, had declared a force majeure because of an illegal strike.

Trade was robust with over 193.5 million shares changing ownership. Share prices of 182 companies lost value while those of another 101 were stronger.

(Reporting by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura; editing by David Dolan)

((helen.nyambura@thomsonreuters.com)(+27 11 775 3034)(Reuters Messaging: helen.nyambura.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))