Ramaphosa
Ramaphosa (l) was the deputy president to Jacob Zuma (photo courtesy Reuters)

South African stocks index rose as much as 5 percent on Thursday, putting the main index on track for its biggest one-day gain in more than three years, on hopes that President Cyril Ramaphosa will quicken the pace of economic growth.

The currency remained on the front-foot, soaring to its firmest since early 2015 in the wake of Jacob Zuma’s exit. Analysts have however warned the rally faces serious obstacles ahead of a budget speech next Wednesday.

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Zuma quit late on Wednesday, reluctantly heeding orders by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to bring an end to a nine-year tenure punctuated by scandals, stagnant economic growth and policy uncertainty.

As of 1530 GMT, the blue chip Top-40 index .JTOPI surged 4 percent to 52,665 points, pulling back from a high of 53,072 achieved earlier but still on course for its biggest one-day gain since September 2015. The broader All-share index .JALSH was up 3.72 percent at 59,533 points.

“The big news is that Zuma has now resigned and that has created a lot of euphoria … South African incorporated, banks, retailers and the like are all looking sharply better as a result,” said Independent Securities’ trader Ryan Woods.

South African banks, considered the barometer of both economic and political sentiment, were a feature on the gainers’ list. The banking index .JBANK surged 5.8 percent with Nedbank  rising 5.37 percent and rival FirstRand  up 6.4 percent.

Banks have largely borne the brunt of Zuma’s policy decisions that included the sacking of two respected finance ministers, Nhlanhla Nene and Pravin Gordhan. That, along with a weak economy, contributed to sovereign credit ratings downgrades to junk by S&P Global Ratings and Fitch.

In reaction to Zuma’s resignation, ratings agency Moody’s said it was focused on the new leadership’s response to economic challenges. S&P Global Ratings said the leadership change would not immediately affect the credit status

Cyril Ramaphosa, former chairman of African biggest telecoms operator MTN Group was sworn in as president on Thursday.

Ramaphosa, who has vowed to fight corruption and revitalise the economy, is seen by business leaders and investors as well placed to turn around the economy. South Africa’s GDP is estimated to grow by less than 1 percent this year.