March 31, 2016 / 7:17 AM / 3 years ago

South Africa's rand firmer, stocks set to open lower

South African bank notes featuring images of former South African President Nelson Mandela (R) are displayed next to the American dollar notes in this photo illustration in Johannesburg August 13 2014. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s rand firmed against the dollar early on Thursday, holding on to its 3-1/2 month high against the greenback, as receding worries of near-term U.S. interest rate hikes buoy investors’ appetite for riskier asset.

At 0654 GMT, the rand traded at 14.9100 per dollar, 0.23 percent firmer from Wednesday’s New York of 14.9445.

The currency rallied to its best since mid-December on Wednesday after emerging markets were buoyed by Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen’s comments that the U.S. central bank should be cautious in raising interest rates.

“Further gains will be limited as traders wait for U.S. payrolls report tomorrow, though Yellen’s cautious demeanour will keep emerging markets on front foot for while,” NKC African Economics said in a note.

Locally, focus was on the Constitutional court ruling on whether President Jacob Zuma should pay back some of the 240 million rand ($16 million) spent by the state on renovating his private Nkandla home, as well as a raft of data releases such as February trade numbers.

Stocks were set to open lower at 0700 GMT, with the JSE securities exchange’s Top-40 futures index down 0.5 percent.

In fixed income, the yield for the benchmark instrument due in 2026 was down 1.5 basis points to 9.16 percent.

($1 = 14.9417 rand)

Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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