(Bloomberg) -- South Africa’s rand weakened beyond 16 per dollar for the first time in a year amid growing concern over a coronavirus variant.

The currency slid as much as 1.2% to 16.1677 per dollar, its weakest in a year. Investors sought out the safety of U.S. Treasuries, which gained across the curve after reopening after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Scientists in South Africa are studying a recently identified new coronavirus variant of concern, stoking fears the country may face a potentially severe fourth wave that could spread internationally. Still, researchers are still trying to determine whether the new variant, called B.1.1529, is more transmissible or more lethal than previous ones. 

“The South African rand had already been under pressure from a stronger U.S. dollar over recent weeks but the news of a new Covid variant has exacerbated the pressure on the currency,” said Mitul Kotecha, chief emerging markets Asia and Europe strategist at TD Securities. “Thin liquidity conditions are also not helping, likely leading to exaggerated moves.”


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