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South Africa Gold Stocks Soar on Weaker Rand: Johannesburg Mover

South African gold-mining stocks surged the most in 4 1/2 years as the nation’s currency plummeted and pushed the rand-price of gold higher.

The six-member FTSE/JSE Africa Gold Mining Index jumped 11 percent, the most since Nov. 24, 2008, to 1,511.14 by the close in Johannesburg. All the gauge’s component shares rose. Harmony Gold Mining Co Ltd. surged 17 percent to 41.09 rand, also the most in 4 1/2 years, clipping four days of declines.

The rand, the worst performer among 16 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg after the Japanese yen this year, today weakened beyond 10 per dollar for the first time since 2009 amid labor unrest that is hampering economic growth. The spot price of gold rose as much as 1.8 percent, the most in a week, and traded 1.5 percent higher at $1,413.50 per ounce by 7:09 p.m. in Johannesburg.

“The rand, which has underpinned them all week, is setting fresh lows today,” Ryan Wibberley, a Cape Town-based trader at Investec Asset Management, said by phone. “The gold miners are underpinned by this persistent rand weakness. The rand-price of gold is up almost 10 percent in the last two weeks.”

Johannesburg-based Harmony Gold, one of the three biggest gold miners, is more geared to the rand-price of gold than competitors with operations in other countries, Wibberley said.

Gold Fields Ltd. rose 10.3 percent, the most since January 2009, to 62.20 rand. AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., the world’s third-largest miner of the metal, advanced 11 percent, the most since December 2008, to 176.50 rand.

Union Unrest

The Gold Mining Index is trading near a 10-year low as mining companies face a rise in electricity tariffs and the country struggles to stave off rolling blackouts, such as those that halted production and shut factories for five days in January 2008.

The National Union of Mineworkers asked for wage increases ranging from 10 percent to as much as 61 percent for entry-level miners as rivalry between labor organizations led to walkouts at Lonmin Plc’s Marikana operations following the assassination of a union official on May 10.

South Africa’s economy grew 0.9 percent in the three months through March, the slowest pace since the 2009 recession and less than the 1.6 percent median estimate of 15 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. President Jacob Zuma appointed his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and the cabinet members for labor and mines to mediate between rival unions.

“When our mining sector is in difficulties, this affects the wider economy, leading to industrial slowdown,” President Jacob Zuma told reporters in the capital Pretoria today.

The spot price of platinum rose 1.7 percent to $1,479.70 per ounce in Johannesburg. The five-member FTSE/JSE Africa Platinum Mining Index closed 5.3 percent higher, the most since May 2010, at 41.02.

Anglo American Platinum Ltd., the world’s biggest producer of the metal, rose 7.4 percent, the most since April 2009, to 320 rand. Lonmin Plc, the third-largest miner of platinum, surged 9.4 percent to 43.77 rand, its highest since March 19.

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