* Rand strengthens
* Stocks knocked lower (Updates rand and stocks)
JOHANNESBURG, Sept 12 (Reuters) - South Africa’s rand firmed in late afternoon deals on Wednesday as stronger retail sales data dimmed the spotlight on economic growth concerns, while stocks followed global equities down.
At 1520 GMT, the rand was 0.81 percent stronger at 14.9425 against the dollar.
“The latest retail sales figures add to the evidence that South Africa’s economy made a strong start to Q3,” analysts Capital Economics said in a note.
Retail sales rose 1.3 percent year-on-year in July after increasing by a revised 1.8 percent in June, official data showed.
The economy slid into recession in the second quarter, weighed down largely by weak consumer spending.
On the bourse, the blue chip top 40 index shed 0.45 percent to 49,815 points while the all share index fell by 0.40 percent to 55,952 points.
“We are in a perfect storm locally and as part of the emerging market with the trade war going on,” said Ferdi Heyneke, portfolio manager at Afrifocus Securities.
“The general sentiment locally has been negative with the GDP recently and business confidence figures have been low.”
President Donald Trump said on Tuesday the United States was taking a tough stance with China, cementing expectations that new levies on Chinese exports will soon be announced and putting pressure on global markets.
South Africa’s business confidence fell in August to 90.5 from 94.7 in July, a survey showed on Wednesday following the country’s slide into recession last week.
Dairy company Clover Industries closed down 0.75 percent after reporting that normalised annual profit, which excluded 439 million rand ($29.25 million) in impairment, had more than tripled.
In fixed income, government bonds were slightly stronger, with the yield on the benchmark paper due in 2026 ZAR186= falling 2.5 basis points to 9.170 percent. (Reporting by Patricia Aruo and Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by Ken Ferris)