Adds latest prices, analyst comments

JOHANNESBURG, Oct 12 (Reuters)South Africa’s rand firmed slightly on Monday, clinging to the previous week’s gains spurred by hopes for the conclusion a stimulus package in the United States.

At 1500 GMT the rand ZAR=D3 was 0.14% firmer at 16.4750 per dollar compared to an close of 16.4975 on Friday in New York.

The expectations of stimulus in the world’s largest economy have provided a welcome boost for the rand by weakening the dollar .DXY and boosting appetite for risk-sensitive currencies.

Traders, however, warned that the cheer was thinning. On Friday, President Donald Trump offered a $1.8 trillion coronavirus relief package in talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – moving closer to Pelosi’s $2.2 trillion proposal.

A holiday in the United States kept volumes thin and traders cautious of any big bets.

Locally, anticipation ahead of Thursday’s address in parliament by President Cyril Ramaphosa, in which he has promised to outline the government’s economic recovery plan, has also kept trading on the cautious side.

Treasury is set to publish its medium term budget (MTBPS) in two weeks time.

“The rand continues to average around R16.50/$ this quarter, in line with our forecasts, and will be subject to volatility, with risks around the MTBPS, Moody’s, S&P and Fitch country reviews and global financial market sentiment,” said Annabel Bishop of Investec.

Bonds firmed, with the yield on the benchmark 2030 paper ZAR2030= down 6 basis points to 9.435%.

In the equities market, the Johannesburg All Shares index .JALSH closed 0.67% firmer at 55,552 points while the Top-40 index .JTOPI climbed 0.74% to 51,158 points.

Leading the gainers was troubled retailer Steinhoff SNHJ.J, which continued to rise after it said on Friday discussions about a $1

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK, Oct 9 (Reuters)U.S. stocks joined their global counterparts in the black, and were on track for weekly gains on Friday as ongoing fiscal aid talks and growing expectations for Democratic election victories revived hopes over economic stimulus.

Gold surged and the dollar dropped as investors bet on the increased probability of forthcoming coronavirus relief.

Wrangling in Washington over pandemic aid has dominated markets this week, which began with President Donald Trump halting negotiations on a comprehensive aid package.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continue to hammer out a deal, even as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed doubt that consensus could be reached before the election.

But a report from the Wall Street Journal said Mnuchin was drafting a proposal worth $1.8 trillion, closer to the $2.2 trillion package Pelosi has floated.

“It’s ‘will they or won’t they?’, but the market is maybe becoming less concerned about the timing of a stimulus package,” said Chuck Carlson, chief executive officer at Horizon Investment Services in Hammond, Indiana.

“I think there’s going to be a stimulus package within the next two months and probably sooner,” Carlson added.

Trump expressed a desire to return to the campaign trail a week after he announced that he had contracted COVID-19, but aides said Trump was unlikely to hold any in-person events until Monday at the earliest.

Reuters/Ipsos polls show Trump’s approval rating plummeting, with Americans steadily losing confidence in his handling of the pandemic, while Democratic challenger Joe Biden makes gains in several key swing states.

“The market is saying there’s a good chance (fiscal relief) might not happen until after the election,” said Carlson, adding “if there’s a ‘blue wave’ the package will be more significant.”

Next week, investors’ attention will

“It’s still all about stimulus at this point: we’re seeing markets move on optimism that some kind of package is going to get done,” Esty Dwek, head of global market strategy at Natixis Investment Managers, told the Wall Street Journal’s Anna Hirtenstein and Ben Eisen. 

At the same time, the political mood was trending in the opposite direction. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, President Trump’s lead negotiator, told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that the president wanted to pursue a comprehensive package, a Pelosi spokesman said, according to Erica Werner and Jeff Stein. Yet as Mnuchin made the assertion to Pelosi on a phone call, White House spokeswoman Alyssa Farah told reporters that Trump wanted a “skinny” bill, only extending aid to airlines, forgivable loans to small businesses and another round of stimulus checks to individuals.

“We’ve made very clear we want a skinny package,” Farah said. 

In fact, Trump has been all over the place. 

Trump, tweeting from the Bethesda military hospital where he was being treated for coronavirus on Saturday, urged both sides to come to an agreement. By Tuesday, he sent stocks into a selloff by tweeting that he was calling off talks altogether before the election. Then he staked out his support for a more targeted bailout in a series of tweets later Tuesday night. Trump came all the way back around to pulling for a comprehensive deal after seeing the stock market reaction to his move to cancel talks altogether, Axios reports. 

Stocks opened higher Thursday after Trump, in an interview on Fox Business Network, affirmed his interest in such a deal. “I shut down talks two days ago because they weren’t working out. Now they‘re starting to work out,” the president said. “We’re talking about airlines. And we’re talking about a bigger deal than

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK, Oct 8 (Reuters)Wall Street advanced and crude prices surged on Thursday as reports continued to surface of new developments in pandemic relief negotiations in Washington.

All three major U.S. stock indexes gained ground, with smaller cap stocks handily outperforming their larger counterparts.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, while expressing confidence that she would be able to reach an agreement with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, said on Thursday legislation to help airline companies survive the pandemic could only move through Congress with guarantees that lawmakers would work on “a fuller bill.”

White House adviser Larry Kudlow said the Trump administration would like to see “standalone” bills to provide additional unemployment assistance and extend the Paycheck Protection Program, but also told Fox News that the economic recovery did not depend on a stimulus deal.

Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, warned there remain “vast differences” between Democrats and Republicans regarding the size of a new round of fiscal aid.

“Today’s back and forth is a microcosm of we’ve been seeing the last couple of weeks,” said Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Financial in Charlotte in North Carolina. “The door seems to be open on a deal then quickly closes.”

“But at least the two sides are still talking, leaving a chance for some type of resolution, potentially before election,” Detrick added.

Democratic nominee Joe Biden has been advancing in the polls ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

“The chance of a blue wave is increasing and one could say the markets would like that,” Detrick said. “Equity markets do not want a contested election and Biden’s lead growth puts a little water on the fire.”

The U.S. Labor Department reported that jobless claims remain well above the highest levels reached at the nadir

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK, Oct 7 (Reuters)U.S. stocks bounced back in a broad rally on Wednesday as investors recovered from the shock of President Donald Trump’s announcement that he intended to halt stimulus talks until after the election, and were relieved that pandemic relief could be passed incrementally.

The risk-on mood was also reflected in weaker Treasury prices and a steepening yield curve as markets were heartened that at least some fiscal aid measures were still on the table, a day after Trump’s tweet sent markets into a nosedive.

While White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said he was “not optimistic for a comprehensive deal,” Trump relented somewhat, urging Congress to pass a $25 billion airline bailout, a move also supported by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In another tweet on Wednesday, Trump also urged Congress to approve the $135 billion payroll protection program for small businesses.

“If you can’t agree on an overall package but there are elements that you can agree on go ahead,” said Peter Tuz, president of Chase Investment Counsel in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“Two elements that are needed are some kind of bailout for the airline industry, and additional aid to allow people to pay bills and buy groceries,” Tuz added. “Those are things that are unequivocal and agreed on by both sides.”

The U.S. Federal Reserve released the minutes from its latest monetary policy meeting, which revealed many members of the Federal Open Market Committee said their economic outlook assumed additional fiscal support, and if a stimulus package from Congress was too small or came later than expected, the economic recovery could be slower than anticipated.

This echoed Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s warning on Tuesday that the economic recovery would slip into a downward spiral if Congress fails to