File photo: Reuters

Johanneaburg - The rand firmed against the dollar on Wednesday after Chinese growth came in just above expectations, but it failed to take big strides as the data was not enough to quell fears about a slowdown in the world's second-largest economy.

The rand remained within the previous session's levels, after China's first-quarter GDP data showed the economy grew at its slowest pace in 18 months.

Investors are also waiting for domestic retail sales data due at 11:00 GMT, which will give a clue about the growth prospects in South Africa's struggling economy. The data is expected to show February sales growth down by almost half from that of January.

A looming long weekend is expected to keep the rand in sideways trade, with local markets closed on Friday and Monday. The rand gained 0.2 percent against the dollar to 10.5405 by 0630 GMT.

“Dollar/rand posted a seven day high, to keep us looking for a break above 10.69, the high from earlier this month. However, the breakout might only occur next week as the risks are for a lacklustre move into the holiday weekend,” said Judy Padayachee, a technical strategist for Barclay Africa, adding she expected a 10.50-10.59 trading range for the session.

Yields on government bonds tracked the rand and dropped two basis points on the 2015 yield to 6.81 percent and nudged down one basis point to 8.465 percent on the benchmark 2026 issue.