UPDATE 2-South African rand gains on EM tailwind, Sappi leads stocks higher

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* Upbeat retails sales data also help rand

* Sappi rises after posting FY profit
(Updates rand, adds bonds, stocks closing prices)

JOHANNESBURG, Nov 16 (Reuters) – South Africa’s rand firmed
on Thursday, helped by favourable sentiment for emerging market
currencies and upbeat retail sales data a day earlier, while
stocks ended higher lead by pulp and paper producer Sappi
.

At 1511 GMT, the rand traded at 14.2300 to the U.S.
dollar, 1.15 percent firmer than its close on Wednesday.

The rand is up around one percent against the dollar since
last Friday, after a torrid few weeks in which it has been
battered by the increasing likelihood that South Africa’s credit
ratings will be downgraded further this month.

S&P Global and Moody’s are scheduled to review South
Africa’s ratings on Nov. 24, and a one-notch downgrade of the
local-currency rating by both agencies could trigger forced
selling of up to $12 billion of the country’s bonds.

Halen Bothma at ETM Analytics said the rand was getting a
temporary reprieve on Thursday partly due to retail sales data
on Wednesday which had painted a more robust picture of the
economy than expected.

“After a selloff in the rand, the market sometimes turns.
But I wouldn’t say it’s a major fundamental move,” Bothma added.

Emerging-market currencies including the Russian rouble
were also rallying elsewhere on global markets.

In fixed income, the yield on the benchmark government bond
due in 2026 closed 5 basis points lower at 9.36
percent, reflecting stronger bond prices.

On the bourse, stocks ended higher as Sappi rose 4 percent
after the company reported higher full-year profit.

The Top-40 index closed up 0.7 percent at
53,378.66, while the broader all-share ended 0.6
percent higher at 59,549.22.
(Reporting by Alexander Winning and Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo;
Editing by James Macharia)