Hike at pumps, rand in dumps
The rand traded near four-month lows this week, doing little to save consumers from a price increase at the pump.
Fuel prices are set to soar by more than 50c/l on Wednesday after the price of crude oil surged in April, data from the Central Energy Fund showed.
The rand was also the second-worst-performing emerging-market currency this week, shedding about 2.3%.
Despite the looming general elections, the currency's trajectory over the next two weeks is likely to be mostly influenced by external forces, analysts said.
Lukman Otunuga, a research analyst at FXTM, said global risk sentiment was a key risk.
"Further weakness could be on the cards if oil prices remain at elevated levels, and risk aversion simultaneously punishes emerging-market currencies while boosting the dollar."
Otunuga said that though the rand was trading marginally below R14.50 early on Friday, "a weekly close above this level may open the gates towards R14.60 in the upcoming trading week". The rand last traded weaker than R14.60 in December.
The near-term implication of a weaker rand is higher petrol prices. This could hike food prices and stoke inflation.
"Fears over inflation negatively impacting the economy have dented buying sentiment towards the [rand], and this continues to be reflected in price action," he said.
But the weaker currency could also affect growth prospects, ranging from rising inflation to higher costs of imported goods and a potential drop in consumer spending.
Consumer confidence has continued its slump and dropped to a two-year low during the first quarter of 2019, the Bureau for Economic Research's index showed this week.
Oil prices are forecast to rise over concern about possible supply challenges. The price of Brent crude breached the $70 mark this week on fears of supply constraints as the US has decided to end waivers for importing oil from Iran.
Jee-A van der Linde, an economist at NKC African Economics, said oil had the potential to push higher prices this quarter as supply cuts by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), tensions in Libya and sanctions against Venezuela fuelled concerns over tightening supply.
The medium- to longer-term outlook depends on Saudi Arabia and Opec's response.
"If the cartel decides to extend the production-cut deal, oil prices are likely to remain elevated this year, " he said.
Though conditions have been relatively favourable for the rand in that interest rates in the US and Europe are likely to remain lower for longer, emerging-market currencies have faced continued headwinds.