South African rand strengthens against softer dollar


South Africa's rand strengthened early on Thursday against a softer dollar, shrugging off a disappointing local survey that showed private sector activity in the country contracted in March.

The S&P Global South Africa Purchasing Managers' Index showed private sector activity fell to 48.4 in March from 50.8 in February as stronger price pressures and drought conditions affected customer demand. A reading above 50 shows growth.

The dollar index was last down 0.1% against a basket of currencies.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on Wednesday made balanced and familiar remarks on the direction of future interest rates. Gold prices rallied on his remarks, while emerging market currencies including the rand gained.
On the stock market, the Top-40 (.JTOPI), opens new tab and the broader all-share (.JALSH), opens new tab indices were both up 0.6% in early trade.

Uganda to launch first domestic tin processing plant next month


Uganda will commission its first tin refining plant in the southwestern region next month, a senior mining ministry official said, as part of efforts to expand capacity and add value domestically to its minerals.
President Yoweri Museveni wants to maximise the benefits of exports to the East African nation, where several gold refineries are operating, and Chinese-backed Sunbird Resources was recently licensed to mine limestone for cement production.

"We are preparing to launch our very first tin processing facility," Irene Bateebe, a top official of the energy and mineral development ministry, told Reuters on Wednesday, adding the launch would take place next month.
Woodcross Resources, a Uganda-based mining and mineral trading company, owns the plant.
"They will be refining tin to over 99% in terms of its purity," Bateebe added, without revealing the size of the investment. Woodcross did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.

Oil steady, bolstered by lower supply concerns


Oil prices were steady on Thursday, shored up by concerns about lower supply as major producers keep output cuts in place and on signs of stronger economic growth in the U.S., the world's biggest oil consumer. A meeting of top ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies (OPEC+) including Russia, kept oil supply policy unchanged on Wednesday and pressed some countries to boost compliance with output cuts.

The group said some members would compensate for oversupply in the first quarter. It also said Russia would switch to output rather than export curbs. Both the June Brent contract and the May WTI contract have risen for the past four days and closed on Wednesday at their highest levels since October. Analysts at ING said oil prices continued to edge higher after the OPEC+ meeting recommended no change to output policy.

African development banks expected to fund Caledonia's new Zimbabwe mine


African development banks are seen as the most likely funders of Caledonia Mining Corporation's planned US$250 million gold mine in Zimbabwe, the mining company's CEO Mark Learmonth said on Wednesday.
Caledonia, which already owns the Blanket gold mine in Zimbabwe, is updating a feasibility study ahead of the planned construction of a new mine at Bilboes to produce at least 170 000 ounces annually, making it potentially the country's biggest gold mine.

The southern African country has significant mineral resources, including platinum group metals, gold and lithium, but has struggled to attract investment due to economic instability and jitters over property rights after the government seized white-owned farms at the turn of the century.
Caledonia, backed by investors including BlackRock and Cape Town-based fund manager Allan Gray, is one of the few foreign investors - along with Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum - to brave Zimbabwe's tough economy marked by foreign currency shortages and episodes of hyperinflation.