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JOHANNESBURG - South Africa’s rand hit a fresh two-and-a-half year high in early trade on Monday, extending a rally driven by optimism about the prospects for change under the new leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

At 0642 GMT, the rand traded at 12.0800 per dollar, 0.74 percent firmer than its New York close on Friday. The currency was trading at its best levels since June 2015, according to Thomson Reuters data.

ANC leaders met this weekend to outline the party’s programme for the coming year amid reports that its executive planned to force President Jacob Zuma - whose presidency has been hit by corruption allegations - to quit as the country’s leader.

ZAR traded stronger during early Asian trade this morning on the back of reports that the ANC’s Top 6 are discussing the exit of President Jacob Zuma today,” NKC African Economics analysts said in a note.

Government bonds firmed alongside the currency, with the yield for the benchmark instrument falling 10.5 basis points to 8.39 percent.

Stocks were set to open lower at 0700 GMT, with the JSE securities exchange’s Top-40 futures index down 0.12 percent.