In South Africa Rand slightly softer in early trade, gains possible later

Stocks opened mostly flat at 0700 GMT, with the JSE securities exchange's Top-40 index dipping just 0.08 percent.

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South African Rand coins are seen in this photo illustration taken September 9, 2015. South Africa's rand recovered some ground on Monday after falling 4 percent on Friday due to a row involving the finance minister, but government bonds fell. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings play South African Rand coins are seen in this photo illustration taken September 9, 2015. South Africa's rand recovered some ground on Monday after falling 4 percent on Friday due to a row involving the finance minister, but government bonds fell. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
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South Africa's rand traded a touch weaker against the dollar on Thursday, but traders and analysts said it could turn firmer later if the European Central Bank kept euro zone interest rates at current lows.

Stocks opened mostly flat at 0700 GMT, with the JSE securities exchange's Top-40 index dipping just 0.08 percent.

The rand traded at 14.2695 versus the dollar, down 0.3 percent from Wednesday's New York close.

But analysts and traders said further rand strengthening was still on the cards after it rallied to its strongest in nearly five months in the previous session, driven by improved appetite for high yielding emerging markets.

"The allure of EM continues, unabated it seems," Standard Bank trader Warrick Butler said in a note.

"The pessimism from the earlier part of this year has faded away in a tapestry of booming stocks, oil and commodity prices as well as interest rates that in the developed world at least are unable to find a bottom."

The outcome of the ECB's policy meeting, where interests rates were expected to remain at record lows, would give the market further direction.

Widely expected to hold interest rates unchanged, the ECB will want to see how the two stimulus packages announced since December play out before unveiling any new measure.

Government bonds were slightly weaker, and the yield for the benchmark instrument due in 2026 ticked up 2 basis points to 8.965 percent.

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