UPDATE 1 – South Africa’s assets drop as Delta variant spread hurts risk appetite

(Updates to reflect afternoon trading)

JOHANNESBURG, July 19 (Reuters) – South Africa’s rand and local stocks fell Monday as concerns over the rapid global spread of the delta coronavirus variant led investors to seek solace in the US dollar and precious metals prices fell.

At 1555 GMT, the rand fell 0.6% to 14.5125 against the dollar, adding to last week’s losses due to riot and looting that erupted following the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma.

The rand is very susceptible to fluctuations in sentiment in world markets and the prices of metals such as gold and platinum, which are major South African exports.

The dollar and other safe investments surged after US officials said the more contagious Delta variant, first discovered in India, is now the world’s dominant strain of coronavirus.

On the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, the top 40 index lost 2.7% to 58,795 points and the broader all-share index fell 2.6% to 64,805 points.

Precious metal mines such as Sibanye Stillwater, Impala Platinum and Northam Platinum were among the biggest losers on the blue chip index, down 6.5%, 4.7% and 4.5% respectively.

However, most of the companies in the blue chip index were down on Monday, with financial firms in particular still suffering from the blow to the rand and economy from last week’s unrest.

(Reporting by Emma Rumney and Alexander Winning; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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