Johannesburg -The rand rose to its strongest level against the dollar this year as the ruling African National Congress looked set to win elections convincingly and after Chinese trade data beat economists’ estimates.

South Africa’s currency gained 0.9 percent, the most since December 27, to 10.3574 per dollar by 11:46 a.m. in Johannesburg.

That’s the best performance today among 24 emerging-market peers tracked by Bloomberg.

The ANC is on course to maintain its 20-year dominance in the 400-member National Assembly.

Emerging-market assets gained as a report showed overseas shipments from China rose 0.9 percent in April from a year earlier, beating the 3 percent decline forecast in a Bloomberg survey, government data showed today.

Investor optimism was also boosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call for an end to violence in Ukraine and for separatists to postpone a referendum over regional autonomy planned for May 11.

“Emerging markets are doing very well, helped by the above news, but also, seemingly, a return of strong inflows,” John Cairns, a currency strategist at FirstRand’s Rand Merchant Bank unit, said in an e-mailed note to clients today.

China’s trade data “has reassured global markets yet again,” he said.

The yield on rand-denominated government bonds due December 2026 fell 12 basis points to 8.21 percent.

Foreigners bought a net 1.6 billion rand of the nation’s bonds on May 7.

With ballots counted in 49 percent of the 22,263 voting districts, the ANC’s support stood at 62.2 percent, according to provisional figures released by the Independent Electoral Commission.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance won 23.6 percent. - Bloomberg News