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JOHANNESBURG - The rand weakened on Friday as resurgent US-China trade tensions and concerns about a slow recovery in the domestic economy soured investor sentiment, while stocks edged higher.

At 5pm, the rand bid at R12.0569 to the dollar, 7.63cents softer than at the same time on Thursday.

President Donald Trump on Thursday directed US trade officials to identify tariffs on $100billion (about R1.19trillion) more Chinese imports, upping the ante in an already high-stakes trade confrontation between the world’s two largest economies.

Beijing was swift to respond, warning on Friday it would fight back “at any cost” with fresh measures to safeguard its interests if needed.

The escalating tensions have hit investor demand for emerging market currencies.

The rand was also undermined by concerns that momentum in the economy has slowed since a sharp rebound in the wake of Cyril Ramaphosa’s election as leader of the ANC in December.

Data last week showed that business activity in the country slowed in March, while business confidence slipped.

Ramaphosa, who was elected South African president in February after the resignation of scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma, has promised to implement economic reforms to boost growth.

“Miracles do not happen - and things change slowly,” Commerzbank analysts wrote in a note. “The data signals that the recovery of the South African economy is likely to progress slowly and will require patience.”

In fixed income, the yield for the benchmark government bond was up 1.5 basis points to 8.055percent, reflecting weaker bond prices.

Stocks rose as the market maintained a technical rally after straying into oversold territory earlier last week, according to momentum indicators tracked by chartists.

The benchmark JSE Top40 index added 0.09percent to 49140.59 points, while the wider all share index closed 0.21percent higher at 55878.81 points.

Among the top gainers, NEPI Rockcastle soared 9.34percent to R131.99, Sappi Limted jumped 6.37percent to R81.27, Gold Fields advanced 3.65percent to R47.13, Sasol was 3.53percent higher at R421.30 and Bid Corporation climbed 3.32percent to R269.53.

-REUTERS