TRUWTHS:  7,337   0 (0.00%)  20/02/2019 00:00

South African rand falls after rate decision; stocks down

(Updates rand, bonds prices, adds stocks)

JOHANNESBURG, Jan 17 (Reuters) - South Africa's rand fell against the dollar on Thursday after the central bank left interest rates unchanged and sounded less hawkish, citing an improved inflation outlook.

Stocks closed lower, led by a slump in retailers after poor sales updates from Mr Price, Woolworths and Truworths.

At 1522 GMT, the rand traded at 13.8000 per dollar, 0.77 percent weaker than its close of 13.6950 on Wednesday. It hit a session low of 13.8300 and a high of 13.6575.

South Africa's central bank kept its benchmark repo rate unchanged at 6.75 percent, as expected, saying it had noted an improved inflation outlook.

Analysts said the Reserve Bank's inflation outlook has reduced the likelihood of future interest rates increases, putting pressure on the rand.

"South African policymakers' abrupt shift away from their previous hawkish rhetoric suggests that further rate hikes are now unlikely," said John Ashbourne, senior emerging markets economist at Capital Economics. "If anything, today's speech raises the possibility that the cut will come sooner."

In fixed income, the yield on the benchmark government bond due in 2026 added 2 basis points to 8.8 percent.

On the stock market, the Top-40 index fell 0.88 percent to 47,298. The broader all-share index fell 0.65 percent to 53,436.

Mr Price led declines on the blue-chip index, tumbling 16.69 percent to 215.60 rand after it reported a slowdown in sales growth and warned of a challenging final quarter.

Shares in Woolworths fell nearly 10 percent to 49.44 rand. The department store operator posted slower half-year sales growth and said it expected its headline earnings to drop by 5 percent in the period.

Truworths also suffered heavy losses, declining more than 9 percent to 80.70 rand, after saying it was likely to report a drop in first-half headline earnings. (Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo, editing by Larry King)

2019-01-17 17:32:59

© 2019 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved. Reuters content is the intellectual property of Thomson Reuters or its third party content providers. Any copying, republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. "Reuters" and the Reuters Logo are trademarks of Thomson Reuters and its affiliated companies.