* Rand lower after U.S. Fed comments
* Caution ahead of Gordhan budget speech Wednesday
* Investors cheer Shoprite and BHP H1 profit
(Adds stocks, analysts and updates levels)
JOHANNESBURG, Feb 21 South Africa's rand
weakened on Tuesday, while stocks were little changed, with
Shoprite topping the Blue-chip index after the retailer reported
a rise in half-year profit.
The rand traded at 13.1475 per dollar at 1502 GMT,
down 0.71 percent from Monday's New York close of 13.0550, while
the yield on the benchmark government bond due in 2026
was down 1 basis point at 8.790 percent.
"The main driver today has been quite significant dollar
strength and it appears that the fresh support for the dollar is
stemming from hawkish speculation regarding Fed policy," ETM
Analytics market analyst Jana van Deventer said.
The dollar rose broadly on Tuesday after two Federal Reserve
policymakers pointed to a potential U.S. interest rate rise next
month, turning attention to the bullish fundamentals of the
world's biggest economy.
Investors were also cautious ahead of Finance Minister
Pravin Gordhan's annual budget speech on Wednesday, amid renewed
fears of a cabinet reshuffle.
"Despite this latest sell-off, the rand is still relatively
resilient," Deventer added.
South African stocks were little changed, with retailer
Shoprite and Steinhoff leading the
gainers as investors continued to digest the collapse of their
merger talks on Monday.
The All-Share Index inched up 0.05 percent to
52,586 points, while the Johannesburg's benchmark Top-40 index
gained 0.11 percent to 45,556 points.
Shoprite closed 3.52 percent higher at 194.62 rand after the
retailer reported a 15.5 percent jump in half-year profit,
buoyed by sales growth in Angola and Nigeria.
Steinhoff's Johannesburg-listed shares rallied further after
the it called off talks with Shoprite, calming investor
nervousness. Its shares strengthened 2.70 percent to 72 rand.
"There was a lot of uncertainty involved in that deal on how
they were going to gel the one with the other, I think after the
talks fell through that uncertainty fell away and the investors
like the fact that they get to have their independence again,"
BP Bernstein trader Vasili Tirasis said.
Among the gainers, shares in Johannesburg-listed BHP
Billiton gained 1.03 percent to 229.06 rand after the
mining giant reported a sharp rise in underlying first-half net
profit and a bigger than expected dividend.
(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Alexander Smith)