South African government bonds were largely unchanged on Monday afternoon on a steady rand, as the benchmark US 10-year bond edged, once again, towards the 3% mark.

The market was eyeing US retail sales data on Tuesday, while domestic data for the same sector is due on Wednesday. Better-than-expected local numbers could boost the rand on the prospect of stronger GDP growth in 2018. Local bonds tend to firm on a stronger rand.

After hitting 3% in April, US bond yields fell to 2.92% last week on slightly lower-than-expected inflation data, which mitigates against aggressive hiking by the US Federal Reserve.

Higher yields are expected to go hand-in-hand with a stronger dollar, which could be rand negative.

"The surge in US yields and dollar strength had proved to be problematic for emerging markets over the past several weeks," said FXTM analyst Hussein Sayed.

He said the higher US yields rose, the more outflows were expected to be seen from emerging markets. A significant break above the 3% benchmark required faster tightening expectations from the Fed. And for this to happen, the economy must show signs of overheating. "However, we are not there yet."

At 3pm, the benchmark R186 government bond was bid at 8.33% from 8.335% and the R207 unchanged at 7.19%.

The rand was at R12.275 to the dollar from R12.2617.

The US 10-year bond was last at 2.9814% from 2.9613%.