The rand was slightly firmer against major global currencies on Wednesday afternoon, gaining a little after some positive local data.

Retail sales grew faster than markets expected in January, rising 1.2% year-on-year, compared to Bloomberg’s forecast of 1.1%.

The Reserve Bank also said that foreign direct investment grew to a five-year high in 2018, with inflows of R70.7bn from the prior year’s R26.8bn.

The financial account surplus fell to 1.3% of GDP in the fourth quarter, but it increased to 2.9% for 2018 as a whole, from 2.4% in 2017, as inflows were recorded across all sub-accounts, said Nedbank Corporate and Investment Banking analysts.

At 2.07pm, the rand had firmed 0.45% to R14.4264/$, 0.32% to R16.3954/€ and 0.79% to R19.0786/£. The euro was flat at $1.136.

The local currency is faring best against the pound, which had fallen after reports that UK Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking only a minor extension to the March 29 Brexit deadline.

Analysts said signs of continued tension within May’s Conservative party is adding to uncertainty.

The main event on Wednesday, however, is the US Federal Reserve monetary policy announcement, due at 8pm local time.