South African bonds were slightly firmer before midday on Thursday, tracking rand gains after the US Federal Reserve raised interest rates as expected, but gave dovish commentary. The local currency posted overnight gains after the Fed increased interest rates by 25 basis points to between 1.25% and 1.5%, and projected three more rate increases in 2018. But it raised concerns about inflation, which remains low. Bonds were expected to be range-bound ahead of the start of the ANC elective conference at the weekend, said Rand Merchant Bank analyst Michelle Wohlberg. The European Central Bank’s (ECB’s) policy statement later may however generate risk-off sentiment, if the ECB reveals further details of how it plans to taper its asset purchase programme, as is expected, she said. Analysts have expressed surprise at the rand’s stability this week, saying it took place in the context of a weaker dollar environment and the difficulty in speculating as to the outcome of the ANC’s conference....

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