February 23, 2018 / 4:00 PM / in 2 years

UPDATE 1-South Africa's rand firmer amid talk of a new cabinet; stocks rise

* Ramaphosa likely to announce a new cabinet soon

* Stocks rise led by banking shares (Adds detail, fresh quotes, updates figures)

JOHANNESBURG, Feb 23 (Reuters) - South Africa’s rand firmed on Friday amid talk that new President Cyril Ramaphosa is likely to announce a new cabinet after a party meeting over the weekend, while stocks rose led by the banking sector.

Ramaphosa has said he is considering a cabinet reshuffle after replacing Zuma. The former president’s nine-year rule was marred by a series of scandals. Ramaphosa has pledged to fight official corruption.

By 1547 GMT, the rand was trading 0.71 percent firmer at 11.5700 per dollar, but within a striking distance of a three-year high of 11.56 scaled last week after the resignation of Jacob Zuma as president.

The rand benefited from rumours that the ruling African National Congress would discuss appointing a new cabinet during a two-day meeting starting on Sunday.

“The imminent cabinet reshuffle is likely to confirm hopes of a political and economic reversal thus supporting the rand further - at least short term,” said Commerzbank analysts in a note.

In fixed income, government bonds were slightly stronger, with the yield on the benchmark instrument due in 2026 down 0.5 basis points at 8.030 percent.

On the bourse, the benchmark Top-40 index rose 0.95 percent to 51,747 points while the All-Share index lifted 0.96 percent to 58,715 points.

Stocks rose led by the banking sector, which is considered the barometer of South African political and economic sentiment. The banking index rose 2.03 percent and with Barclays Africa Group up 3.20 percent to 203.88 rand and FirstRand lifting 2.38 percent to 76.07.

“Banks are looking somewhat better, the industrials, bar one or two exceptions, and the rand hedges for the most part held their own despite the stronger currency,” said Independent Securities’ trader Ryan Woods

Further gains were curbed by Northam Platinum which fell 2.55 percent to 42.88 rand after the mid-tier South African miner reported a widened half-year loss citing costs related to a transaction to increase its black ownership profile. (Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by James Macharia)

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