UPDATE 1-South Africa's rand firmer as U.S. Fed stance supports risk demand

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UPDATE 1-South Africa's rand firmer as U.S. Fed stance supports risk demand
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JOHANNESBURG, May 14 (Reuters) - South Africa's rand firmed on Friday as global risk demand was aided by signs the United States central bank would keep lending rates low despite rising inflation.

A Federal Reserve official this week said the surprise jump in consumer inflation had not dented its plans to keep its support for the economy. 1440 GMT the rand ZAR=D was 0.02% firmer at 14.1350 per dollar, compared to an overnight close of 14.1375.

The rand, which hit a 16-month high on Tuesday, has had a strong run since March, prompted by lower rates in the developed world, a surge in global commodity prices and signs the local economy is on track for a better-than-expected recovery.

But rising bonds yields in the United States have put a lid on those gains, while traders have pointed to seasonal factors that often see the rand lose ground to the dollar around this time of year.

"The sharp although short-lived pull-back in many asset prices, including the rand, after the much-higher-than-expected U.S. inflation print is a reminder of what could happen if the Fed takes a more proactive stance to combat U.S. inflation," said Walter de Wet, an analyst at Nedbank.

In a poll by Reuters this week, all 25 of economists surveyed see the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of South Africa's Reserve Bank (SARB) keeping its repo rate unchanged for a fifth straight meeting at a record low 3.5% next week. we expect the MPC to keep the repo rate unchanged, we also expect it to maintain a hawkish tone (unlike the Fed) despite the current muted domestic inflationary pressures," de Wet added in the note.

Investors on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) calmed on Friday and picked up shares in a range of locally sensitive stocks such as banks, financials, real estate and retail.

"The only question that asset managers worldwide have got to get right is inflation over the next year or two," he said, adding that the fears around inflation have temporarily subsided and that is what boosted the JSE on Friday.

The benchmark all-share index .JALSH closed up 0.65% at 66,598 points while the blue-chip index of top 40 companies .JTOPI ended up 0.6% at 60,573 points.

Bonds firmed, with the yield on the benchmark 2030 paper ZAR2030= down 7 basis point at 9.10%.

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