The United States markets are closed today to celebrate President’s Day.

By the close of trade on Friday, the South African rand strengthened against the US dollar.

  • China said the death toll from the coronavirus rose to 1,770, while the province at the epicenter of the outbreak reported 1,933 new cases. Meanwhile, Hong Kong is facing “tsunami-like” shocks, and may incur a record budget deficit in the next fiscal year as the city counts the costs of the coronavirus outbreak after months of social unrest, Financial Secretary Paul Chan said.
  • Several blasts hit a U.S.-led coalition military base in Baghdad early on Sunday from an apparent rocket attack, a U.S. military official said. The official did not immediately say if the attack caused any casualties or significant damage. Rocket attacks which Washington blames on Iran-backed militias have regularly hit near and occasionally on the U.S. embassy which is next to the base.
  • The greenback lost ground, following the release of lackluster domestic economic data, which appeared to justify the US Federal Reserve’s wait-and-see stance regarding its accommodative monetary policy.
  • Industrial production dropped for a second straight month on a monthly basis in January, as unseasonably mild weather depressed demand for utilities, and Boeing suspended production of its troubled 737 MAX plane.
  • Retail sales for January showed sluggish activity.
  • On the flipside, preliminary reading of the Michigan consumer sentiment index rose more-than-expected to a level of 15-year high in February, despite the recent outbreak of the coronavirus.
  • Business inventories rebounded in December.
  • The yield on benchmark government bonds fell on Friday. The yield on 2021 bond declined to 6.50% while that for the longer-dated 2030 issue fell to 8.85%.

In early trade on Monday, the US dollar is trading 0.3% lower against the South African rand at R14.8623, while the euro is trading 0.3% lower at R16.1099. The British pound has declined 0.3% against the South African rand to trade at R19.3913.

By the close of trade on Friday, the euro declined against most of the major currencies.

  • Concerns mounted about weakening economic growth in Europe after the preliminary reading of gross domestic product (GDP) rose less than expected on an annual basis in 4Q19, as the German economy reported flat growth on a quarterly basis in 4Q19.
  • President Donald Trump’s top energy official said he’s confident that Russia won’t be able to complete the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea — and signaled that the U.S. will press forward with its opposition to the project. Asked about Russian efforts to circumvent U.S. sanctions on the pipeline by completing it on its own, U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said “they can’t” — and dismissed claims that project owner Gazprom PJSC will face only a short delay. “It’s going to be a very long delay, because Russia doesn’t have the technology,”

In early trade on Monday, the euro has advanced 0.1% against the US dollar to trade at $1.0839, while it has gained 0.1% against the British pound to trade at GBP0.8308.