* Rand rally pauses ahead of Ramaphosa speech
* Stocks lifted by dovish Fed (Adds latest prices, analyst comments)
JOHANNESBURG, June 20 (Reuters) - South Africa’s rand inched firmer late on Thursday following a rally to a five-week best after the U.S. Federal Reserve signalled possible interest rate cuts later this year.
Investors paused the rand buying spree and booked some profits ahead of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation address at 1700 GMT, with the rand seen moving in either direction depending on the tone struck by Ramaphosa.
At 1530 GMT the rand was 0.1% firmer at 14.3000 per dollar, dipping back from a session-best 14.2000 hit earlier in the session, its firmest level since May 16.
Ramaphosa is expected to give details of an Eskom support package as pressure mounts on him to deliver on his election pledge to jump-start flagging growth and avoid losing the country’s last investment-grade credit rating.
The rand was top of the emerging market currency pile for the week, but still lagged a number of its peers on a year-to-date basis, with analysts citing policy uncertainty and the risk of Pretoria losing the rating as key constraints.
“Given that the rand has been a clear underperformer in the recent past, this still represents a bit of a ‘catch up’ relative to the EM sample on a longer-term basis,” analysts at Investec said in a note.
South Africa has overtaken Turkey and Argentina among emerging markets as investors’ biggest worry, with the rand likely to suffer the backlash of intensifying volatility and short selling as a downgrade to “junk” looms larger.
“We still see scope for the rand’s depreciation on Friday because of worries about weaker growth and possible rate cuts, with the USD/ZAR potentially breaking the 14.40 resistance level,” said Juri Kren of Continuum Economics.
In fixed income, the yield on the benchmark government bond due in 2026 dipped 11 basis points to 8.07%.
On the bourse, stocks were up after Wednesday’s dovish Fed message as appetite for risk saw equities surge globally.
The benchmark Johannesburg Stock Exchange Top-40 Index rose 0.81% to 52,961.96 while the broader All-Share Index closed 0.68% higher at 58,960.29.
Gold mining companies saw the biggest gains, with AngloGold Ashanti rising 7.47% to 241.99 rand and Gold Fields up by 3.66% to 76,48 rand.
Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana and Naledi Mashishi;Editing by Catherine Evans