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JOHANNESBURG - The rand firmed yesterday as global risk appetite improved and markets appeared to shrug off worries that US-China trade tensions could damage global growth.

Stocks ended lower as African Rainbow Minerals shares fell after an attack on its miners that led to six deaths.

At 5pm, the rand bid at R11.8122 to the dollar, 3.36cents firmer than at the same time on Thursday.

US President Donald Trump’s administration is expected to announce this week US tariffs on Chinese imports.

On Tuesday, China’s ambassador to the US said Beijing would take counter-measures if Washington imposed further tariffs.

The trade war fears had dampened global risk appetite but the rand remains an emerging market favourite following a ratings reprieve by Moody’s last month and data suggesting the continent’s most industrialised country was on track for faster growth.

Moody’s affirmed South Africa’s debt at “Baa3”, the lowest rung of investment grade, but changed the country’s credit outlook to stable from negative.

“The (central bank) decision to reduce the interest rate in March may slow down the pace of the appreciation in the rand in the near-term,” Nedbank analysts wrote in a note.

“We still believe that the current real interest rate is still supportive of persistent foreign capital inflows, which could see the rand being supported further in coming months, although this is not our base case.”

The rand has appreciated 7percent against the dollar since late December when President Cyril Ramaphosa succeeded Jacob Zuma as head of the ANC.

Ramaphosa was appointed head of state following Zuma’s resignation in February.

In fixed income, the yield for the benchmark government bond was up 3.5 basis points to 8.015percent, reflecting weaker bond prices.

On the bourse, the benchmark JSE Top40 index was down 1.26percent to 48179.94 points while the all share index dropped 1.1percent to 54864.79 points.

African Rainbow Minerals retreated 4.63percent to close at R96.71 following the deaths of six of their miners when the bus taking them to work was set alight by a petrol bomb thrown by unknown attackers.

- REUTERS