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Cape Town - The rand was a touch softer against the dollar on Wednesday but firmed against major European currencies as emerging markets cautiously awaited the decision of the US Federal Reserve (Fed) last night on its benchmark rates and its plans to wind down its multi-trillion dollar balance sheet.

With the Fed having indicated in the past few weeks that low US inflation meant that it would opt for a gradual increase in interest rates, market participants have now shifted their attention more on how the US Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) statement discusses inflation.

The local unit was at 5pm bid at R13.03 against the dollar, while it was pegged at R15.16 against the euro, strengthening from R15.20 in the previous session. The rand was bid at R16.98 against the pound, from R17 in the comparative session.

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Tiffany Pollock, a forex and money market trader at Merchant West, said the Fed was likely to leave policy rates range unchanged and that market focus could rather centre on the language in the statement.

Several FOMC members have already intimated that balance sheet adjustments could start “relatively soon”.

Meanwhile, stocks on the local bourse closed higher, led by gold miners, which surged 1.9 percent. Financials climbed 0.5 percent and and resources gained 0.8 percent.

The benchmark JSE Top40 index added 0.71 percent to 48563.79 points, while the broader all share index was up 0.62 percent to 54836.19 points.

Gold Fields advanced 2.94 percent to R50.34, Sibanye Gold was up 2.8 percent to R15.76 and AngloGold Ashanti added 1.25 percent to close at R125.

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE