South Africa's rand firms as country secures COVID-19 vaccines

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s rand firmed on Friday, as investors found some comfort in news that the country has secured COVID-19 vaccines for healthcare workers and that the rollout should start sooner than anticipated after criticism of delays.

South African Rand coins are seen in this photo illustration taken September 9, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/File Photo

At 0712 GMT, the rand was trading at 15.3800 against the dollar, 0.49% firmer from an overnight close of 15.4550.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Thursday the government would receive 1.5 million doses of AstraZeneca’s shot from the Serum Institute of India (SII), spread over January and February.

Health workers have voiced concern that the authorities have not acted fast enough to secure enough vaccines.

Analysts at NKC African Economics said the announcement was “welcoming news” at a time when COVID-19 cases within the country hit a record 21,832 on Wednesday and over 20,000 in the last 24 hours.

Government bonds were little changed, with the yield on the benchmark 2030 bond up 1 basis point at 8.810%.

In the equities markets, stocks also firmed, with Aspen Pharmacare, which is producing the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines in South Africa, leading the rally.

Aspen climbed 3.34% at 0724 GMT after a senior company executive told Reuters on Thursday that the country’s biggest pharmaceutical firm could start production of the J&J vaccines by late March or early April if all approvals are in place.

The health ministry’s announcement that negotiations on sourcing a vaccine are at an advanced stage with J&J, also boosted gains at Aspen.

The Johannesburg All-Share index rose 0.76%, while the Top-40 index climbed 0.77%

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