* Rand falls after rates held at 5.5 pct
* MPC cuts 2011 growth forecast
* Central bank worried about rand weakening
* Weak growth does not bode well for jobs
* Marcus says sees no end in sight to global crisis
(Adds Marcus comments from awards ceremony)
By Phumza Macanda
JOHANNESBURG, Sept 22 South Africa's Reserve
Bank left its repo rate unchanged on Thursday and struck a
dovish note as it balanced its concerns for domestic economic
growth with an expected increase in inflation stemming from a
sharply weaker rand.
Governor Gill Marcus said the bank's Monetary Policy
Committee discussed a cut in the benchmark lending rate from its
current 30-year low of 5.5 percent, although the final decision
to keep it on hold was unanimous.
The rand hit fresh 26-month lows to the dollar and bonds
trimmed losses after the MPC statement.
Although annual inflation was steady at 5.3 percent in
August, the bank said it still expected it to trend higher, with
administered prices, such as fuel and power, and food the main
The MPC said it was concerned about the value of the rand,
which has plunged nearly 20 percent against the dollar in the
last three weeks as South Africa's currency has finally fallen
victim to a global sell-off of emerging market assets.
"The depreciation of the rand poses a potential upside risk
to the inflation outlook," Marcus said.
"However the degree of this risk will depend on the extent
and persistence of the depreciation trend, which in turn will be
influenced by the duration and intensity of global risk
Marcus highlighted the fragility of the continent's biggest
economy and left the door open for a rate cut should there be a
marked slowdown due to the global financial crisis.
She said emerging markets such as South Africa would still
experience faster growth but remained vulnerable to a
significant slowdown in developed markets.
At an awards ceremony for women leadership late on Thursday,
Marcus said there was no end in sight to the global crisis now
in its fifth year.
"We've never come out of the crisis ... and there's no end
in sight," she said.
"We need a leadership that is credible, that is trusted,
that can articulate our concerns that drives all of us towards
results and answers that people believe in," she added.
Mainly due to global risks, the Reserve Bank cut its growth
forecast to 3.2 percent for 2011 from 3.7 percent. It sees the
economy growing by 3.6 percent in 2012 and 4.4 percent in 2013.
"The clear message coming across from the SARB is that
global growth concerns are overriding, and that in the event of
a severe shock, the SARB is more likely to be cutting interest
rates," said Razia Khan, head of Africa research at Standard
All 27 economists polled by Reuters last week predicted the
Reserve Bank would leave rates unchanged. Four saw a chance of a
rate cut either in November or early next year.
Bonds trimmed losses after the statement, with the yield on
the 2015 bond at 7.03 percent from 7.06 before the
data. The rand hit a new 26-month low of 8.34 after the
"The dovish nature of the statement could fuel expectations
of a rate cut this year. This could provide a boost to equity
market inflows, which could help to stem the rand's slide,"
Standard Bank said in a note.
Marcus said the current growth trajectory did not bode well
for employment creation.
The government asked the central bank last year to consider
economic growth and jobs more in its deliberations and not focus
solely on inflation.
At more than 25 percent of the workforce, South Africa's
unemployment rate is among the highest in the world and is
regarded as a potential source of social instability.
(Additional reporting by Ed Stoddard, Stella Mapenzauswa and
Johannesburg newsroom; Editing by Ed Cropley and Catherine