JOHANNESBURG, Nov 15 (Reuters) - South Africa's rand firmed against the dollar in early trade on Thursday, extending an overnight rally, in line with a rise in bonds, encouraged by signs that China and the United States may be taking steps to de-escalate their bitter trade dispute.
* At 0650 GMT, the rand ZAR=D3 traded at 14.2600 per dollar, 0.87 percent firmer, having closed in New York at 14.3850.
* The currency is expected to trade in a range of 14.1500 to 14.4500 to the dollar on Thursday, NKC African Economics said in a note.
* U.S. government sources told Reuters on Wednesday that China had sent a response to U.S. demands for trade reform but gave no further details, raising hopes the two sides could resume negotiations to end their trade war. Traders have cautiously welcomed news in recent days that Washington and Beijing have resumed informal discussions, and hopes are growing that they may agree on de-escalation measures and pursue more detailed talks. Government bonds were firmer early on Thursday, with the yield on the benchmark instrument due in 2026 ZAR186= down 0.5 basis points at 9.165 percent.
* Stocks were set to open higher at 0700 GMT, with the JSE securities exchange's Top-40 futures index ALSIc1 up 0.15 percent.
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