Johannesburg - The rand was steady against the dollar early on Thursday as risk appetite subsided and traders awaited US employment data on Friday that is expected to give guidance on interest rates move.
At 09:40, the rand traded at R15.58/$, largely unchanged from Wednesday's New York close of R15.55/$.
Upbeat US economic data and a rally in a range of commodities dampened risk appetites globally, while traders were cautious ahead of US unemployment numbers on Friday.
"Tomorrow’s data is going to provide a lot of insight into the Federal Reserve’s next move, in conjunction with the US CPI data that is," Standard Bank trader Warrick Butler said.
Growth in US employment would strengthen the case for the Federal Reserve to up the tempo on its heightening cycle, which traditionally has triggered an outflow of investments from emerging markets.
Stocks were set to open higher at 09:00, with the JSE securities exchange's Top-40 futures index up 0.62%.
Shares in South Africa's MTN Group were likely to react to news that it has set aside around R9.29bn to cover the potential settlement of a fine in Nigeria as it posted a more than 50% drop in annual profit.
In fixed income, the yield for the benchmark instrument due in 2026 was down 2.5 basis points to 9.33%.
Umkhulu's Adam Phillips said the rand is firmly back at levels after Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's budget speech and recovered all the losses that saw it move up to R16.20/$ on the ructions he had/has with Sars.
"There is more to come here I fear and that is why I think local operators will keep it tight," he said. "I think the view is to play small positions and expect big moves with wide two way pricing set to stay. I am sure the local elections will starts providing some movement.
"A big level on the rand is R15.37/$, but it feels a long way away from that level, although it could happen with the help of a small amount of selling. These days it does not take much to move it."
Rand Merchant Bank economist Deon Kohlmeyer said the rand took comments by Police Minister Nathi Nhleko that the questions sent to Gordhan by the Hawks had only been for clarification purposes as somewhat positive.
"This positive currency sentiment led to some institutional buying but any attempt to get yields lower ran into continued selling, which led to the market not really hanging on to any of the gains at all," he said.
- Additional reporting by Fin24.