The rand was at its worst level against the dollar since early January on Friday morning, weighed down by yet more gloomy economic news from China.

Chinese exports registered a 20.7% drop in February month on month, much worse than the 4.8% contraction expected by Trading Economics’ consensus forecast.

The disappointing data comes a day after the European Central Bank (ECB) lowered its growth forecasts for the eurozone. The bank's promises of fresh stimulus measures sent the euro to a 19-month low to the dollar.

At 9.55am the rand was 0.24% weaker at R14.5468/$, 0.36% softer at R16.3045/€ and 0.39% down at R19.0398/£. The euro was 0.13% softer at $1.121.

Focus on Friday is on US nonfarm payroll numbers, due at 3.30pm local time.

The jobs numbers will be closely watched, as they will inform future US Federal Reserve monetary policy.

After a blockbuster report of 304,000 jobs created in January, expectations are for the February reading to show 180,000 jobs created, with a low estimate of 85,000 and a high forecast of 250,000, said Oanda analyst Edward Moya.

Investors, however, should not be surprised if the data showed a disappointing headline number and significant downward revision, he said.