This paper investigates the impact of rand shocks on industry output and various other South African macroeconomic variables. We use a factor augmented model, which has the key advantage of providing a rich narrative about the disaggregated impacts of exchange rate shocks. We show that the currency tends to react to changes in the relative fundamentals of the economy, such as those captured by commodity export prices, and that the independent impact on the economy of exchange rate changes that are unrelated to fundamentals is estimated to be small. The results suggest that the exchange rate tends to act as a shock absorber to the shocks that hit the economy: a large proportion of the variation in the rand can be explained by other shocks, while rand shocks themselves explain a relatively small proportion of South Africa’s macroeconomic volatility. That said, the role that the exchange rate plays as a shock absorber appears to be weaker in South Africa than for other commodity exporters like Australia and New Zealand.