September 3, 2019 / 4:08 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-South Africa's rand firms on positive GDP data, stocks flat

(Updates prices)

JOHANNESBURG, Sept 3 (Reuters) - South Africa’s rand firmed on Tuesday, buoyed by data showing the economy grew more than expected in the second quarter after a shock contraction previously.

At 1545 GMT, the rand was 0.84% firmer against the dollar at 15.1300.

“There was a collective sigh of relief across the South African economy after economic growth surprised by expanding during the second quarter of 2019,” said Lukman Otunuga, senior research analyst at FXTM.

“The encouraging GDP figure is unlikely to derail the South African Reserve (SARB) from cutting interest rates in an effort to stimulate domestic consumption and growth.”

Statistics South Africa said GDP growth in the three months to June was 3.1%, after a revised contraction of 3.1% in the first quarter. Economists polled by Reuters had predicted an expansion of 2.4% for the quarter.

On the bourse, stocks were flat with the broader All-Share index down 0.08% to 54,742 points, while the blue chips Top-40 index closed 0.03% weaker to 48,873 points.

Hotel and casino group Sun International fell 5.89% to 40.61 rand, while Sasol slipped 3.39% to 260.20 rand as it struggles with its Lake Charles project in the United States.

Bucking the declining trend was Pharmacare Aspen, climbing 7.26% to 82.41 rand after the firm said its debt had fallen below 40 billion rand ($2.63 billion) and that levels were safely below a covenant threshold.

In fixed income, the yield on the benchmark paper due in 2026 dipped 1.5 basis points to 8.145%.

$1 = 15.2369 rand Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Onke Ngcuka; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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