South Africa's rand sees weekly gain after lending rate hike

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South African Rand coins are seen in this photo illustration taken September 9, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/File Photo

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JOHANNESBURG, May 20 (Reuters) - South Africa's rand was little changed on Friday, holding on to most of the gains made in the previous session after the central bank announced its biggest rise to the main lending rate in more than six years to rein in inflation.

The U.S. dollar's retreat from two-decade highs has also supported the rand this week. read more

At 1526 GMT, the rand traded at 15.8800 against the dollar, down 0.05% from its previous close, staying close to two-week highs touched on Thursday.

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This week, the rand has gained 1.7%, making a tentative recovery after a flight in the past month from riskier emerging market assets.

The South African Reserve Bank's Monetary Policy Committee increased the repo rate (ZAREPO=ECI) by 50 basis points to 4.75% on Thursday, as it stepped up efforts to fight inflation. read more

It raised its rand forecast to 15.88 to the dollar, compared to 15.41 at the previous MPC meeting in March.

"The heightened risks to inflation and the rand have greatly

increased the likelihood of a more aggressive interest rate path," Nedbank economists said in a note on Thursday.

Consumer inflation was running at 5.9% in annual terms in March and April, near the top of the central bank's 3%-6% target range, driven by higher fuel and food prices linked to the war in Ukraine.

On the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), the All-Share index (.JALSH) ended down 0.98% at 67,575 and the blue-chip index of top-40 companies (.JTOPI) closed down 1.18% at 60,999 points, mainly pulled down by luxury goods maker Richemont (CFR.S), which has a heavy weightage on the indexes, even as most sectors did well.

South African billionaire Johann Rupert, chairman of Richemont, cautioned on Friday that China's recovery will be slower than expected. Its shares dropped almost 13% on the JSE amid investor fears the $55 billion owner of brands such as Cartier and Mont Blanc would post poor sales number in the coming months. read more

In fixed income, the yield on the benchmark bond fell 12 basis points to 9.76%, ending the week with its price at a five-week high.

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Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo, Rachel Savage and Bhargav Acharya; editing by Jason Neely and Elaine Hardcastle

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