August 16, 2019 / 4:02 PM / 4 months ago

UPDATE 1-South Africa's rand firms, stocks flat

* Rand firms on China stimulus

* Stocks tread water

* Sasol results delayed on Lake Charles project (Updates prices, adds stocks)

JOHANNESBURG, Aug 16 (Reuters) - South Africa’s rand firmed on Friday, adding to the previous session’s gains as hopes of further stimulus in China helped developing world currencies hold their ground against the dollar.

At 1505 GMT the rand was 0.34% firmer at 15.2275 per dollar, bringing gains to 1.2% since Wednesday when the currency tumbled to just shy of an 11-month low.

The rand has fallen more than 6% since the beginning of August, pressured by the rising likelihood of a credit ratings downgrade by Moody’s linked to a massive, additional bailout for state power firm Eskom and signs of slower global growth.

“The rand is among the biggest losers of the recent depreciation trend among many EM currencies as a result of falling global risk appetite,” Commerzbank said in a note.

“Moreover there are considerable domestic risks including the possible downgrade of South Africa’s sovereign rating to junk status.”

Moody’s is the last of the three big international ratings agencies to rate South African debt at investment grade. South Africa’s rating with S&P Global Ratings and Fitch has been non-investment grade since 2017.

On the bourse, the broader All-share index ticked up 0.06% to 53,875 points and the benchmark Top-40 closed up 0.09% at 48,158 points.

Paper and packaging company Sappi gained 5.22% to 44.91 rand, while Discovery rose 4.41% to 110.06 rand and Bidvest climbed 3.16% to 178.97 rand. The biggest faller on the blue chip index was chemicals and energy Sasol, which shed 4.73% to close at 265.00 rand after the company announced it would delay its annual financial results due to “control weakness” at its U.S. ethane cracker project.

“The delay of results and announcing an independent review is a huge red flag,” said Byron Lotter, a portfolio manager at Vestact.

Sasol spokesman Alex Anderson said the group’s financial controls were sound and it had no concerns about its financial reporting.

The Foschini Group also fell 3.26% to 145.00 rand after announcing it was reviewing its Kenya and Ghana stores.

Bonds firmed, with the yield on benchmark 10-year government paper due in 2026 down 5.5 basis points to 8.385%. (Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Onke Ngcuka; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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