December 8, 2017 / 6:54 AM / 11 days ago

South Africa's rand stumbles in bear plays ahead of U.S. jobs data

JOHANNESBURG, Dec 8 (Reuters) - South Africa’s rand weakened early on Friday as the case to sell mounted ahead of the U.S. jobs data, seen set to lift the dollar, while short positioning by traders eyeing key economic and political events on the horizon also pressured the currency.

* At 0640 GMT, the rand had weakened 0.18 percent to 13.7550 per dollar, succumbing to increasingly bearish bets, with the greenback set to end the week higher as polls pointed to U.S. non-farm payrolls data beating expectations.

* Traders said 13.80 targeted by short sellers with just one week before the ruling African National Congress (ANC) leadership conference, where a successor to the current leader, President Jacob Zuma will be crowned.

* Forward markets have shown increased interest in options coinciding with the conclusion of ANC conference, with a call bias indicating more investors banking on a rand advance.

* Data calendar sees consumer and producers inflation figures, current account, tax collection and current account data all due next week.

* Bonds back in sync with currency flows after a few sessions of divergence earlier in the week. The yield on the benchmark paper due in 2026 was up 2 basis points to 9.265 percent.

* Stocks were set to open higher at 0700 GMT, with the JSE securities exchange’s benchmark Top-40 futures index up 0.6 percent.

* Rand hedges remain in favour, but main focus on furniture giant Steinhoff after its shares fell by 43 percent on Thursday, compounding the previous day’s more than 60 percent fall since it revealed “accounting irregularities”. (Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri)

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