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South Africa's rand softer, bonds flat ahead of rate decision

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's rand was a touch softer on Thursday while government bonds were flat in cautious trading ahead of a central bank decision on interest rates.

Economists surveyed by Reuters last week expected the Reserve Bank to keep the benchmark repo unchanged at 5.75 percent at its third policy meeting for 2015.

But traders, investors and analysts will scrutinise governor Lesetja Kganyago's speech, due to start at 1300 GMT, to gauge the rates outlook for the rest of the year.

At 0642 GMT the rand was at 11.8645 versus the U.S. dollar, just 0.25 percent off Wednesday's closing level at 11.8355.

The yield on the benchmark government bond maturing in 2026 was unchanged at 7.975 percent.

Shorter-dated forward rate agreements were lower as the market priced in a very slight change of a rate hike.

"Most of the premium in the FRA curve is now based on the forward guidance that the Governor of the South African Reserve Bank will give during his speech," Rand Merchant Bank analyst Gordon Kerr said in a note.

"If the rhetoric is not particularly hawkish, we could see short-term rates push down further."

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