Johannesburg - The rand held steady against the dollar on Wednesday, holding in a range carved out since the start of the month after it found strong support in the previous session at the psychologically key 9.0 level.
The local currency came within a whisker of R9 in Tuesday's session after being sold in reaction to global political tensions triggered by North Korea's third nuclear test.
However, R9 provided a tough barrier and the negative sentiment seems to have dissipated.
By 08:54, the unit was at R8.9160/$, compared with a R8.91 close in New York on Tuesday.
"Dollar/rand ended the day back in its seven-day range as the dollar bulls ran out of steam in afternoon trade. We are watching the R8.80 and R8.95 levels for direction," said Judy Padayachee, technical strategist at Absa Capital.
Padayachee said the pair should trade in a R8.86 to R8.96 band in this session.
Retail sales data for December is due at 13:00. It will be one of the last pieces of data for last year and will give a picture of how fourth quarter economic growth is likely to have fared.
High inflation and joblessness in the last quarter of 2012 likely kept consumers cautious about spending. Consumer price growth hit 5.7% in December.
Retailers have also been releasing disappointing trading updates, pointing to subdued spending over the holiday season.
Economists expect sales would have slowed sharply to 1.2% on a year-on-year basis, from 3.4%.
Yields on government bonds also moved back into the week's range, with the 2015 and 2026 issues at 5.335% and 7.31% respectively.
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