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South Africa's volatile rand halts slide but remains under pressure

The rand firmed late on Friday as falling US import prices capped a dollar bullrun.

FILE: South African Rand. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The rand firmed late on Friday as falling US import prices capped a dollar bullrun, in a week that saw the local currency nosedive more than three percent to 13-year lows on domestic and offshore concerns.

At 1518 GMT the rand had firmed 0,45 percent to 11,6645 per dollar, while also gaining against the euro and the British pound, by 0,28 percent and 0,26 percent respectively.

The local unit kicked off the week around the 11,5000 mark and looked set for supports below that before capitulating to 11,8925 - its worst since March 2002 - as rolling power-outages and meek employment and output figures weighed.

Electricity blackouts by ailing parastatal Eskom will enter a second week over the weekend, the firm said, while an uptick in factory production was negated by a contraction in mining output earlier this week.

Data from the US on Friday showing import prices there had fallen by their most in six years, however, buffered the weak domestic figures.

Signs that inflation in the world's number-one economy remains benign, and an oil-price surge past $60 for the first time in 2015, tempered recent market bets of an interest rate hike later than June, supporting some rand buying.

Government bonds also firmed, with the benchmark issue due in 2026 leading the pack, down 4,5 basis points to 7,54 percent.

The local currency will remain under pressure though, as domestic demand continues to flag, according to economist Kamilla Kaplan of Investec Bank.

"Relatively soft domestic demand should be reflected in the retail sales outcome for December," Kaplan wrote in a research note.