(Recasts with rand turning firmer, adds stocks, fresh comment)
JOHANNESBURG, March 9 (Reuters) - South Africa’s rand climbed nearly 2 percent against the dollar on Wednesday as U.S. wholesale data pointed to restrained growth in the world’s biggest economy, boosting appetite for emerging market currencies.
Stocks slipped for a second day as investors took profits in the resources and banking sectors amid nagging concerns over key commodity consumer China’s growth outlook.
The rand hit a session high of 15.1780 per dollar, its strongest in more than two weeks, and was up 1.7 percent at 15.1925 by 1617 GMT, compared with Tuesday’s New York close at 15.4450.
It recouped earlier losses triggered by Moody’s placing South Africa’s credit rating on review for a downgrade over its worsening growth prospects.
The currency’s stronger run at the tail-end of Johannesburg trade was partly aided by data showing U.S. wholesale inventories unexpectedly rose in January as sales tumbled, suggesting economic growth might be held back.
“That might be driving the more aggressive strengthening now into the local market close as investors re-consider risk for the Fed (Federal Reserve) to hike rates,” ETM market analyst Jana van Deventer said.
Gold stocks led the decline on the stock market, with bullion producer Sibanye Gold down 7.52 percent to 53.50, while Gold Fields was 7.43 percent weaker at 60.15 rand.
“The market has run up quite strongly over the last while,” Afrifocus Securities portfolio manager Ferdi Heyneke said.
“Markets are just consolidating after some very strong moves especially in the resources and banking side of the market.”
In the banking sector, Standard Bank slid 3.08 percent to 125.16 rand, while South Africa’s biggest lender by market value FirstRand ended 4.61 percent lower at 43.50 rand.
The benchmark Top-40 index fell 1.32 percent to 45,581.54 while the broader All-share index closed 1.46 percent lower at 51,445.94.
In fixed income, yields closed higher across the curve, with the benchmark issue due in 2026 adding half a basis point to 9.265 percent. (Reporting by Nqobile Dludla and Stella Mapenzauswa; Editing by Joe Brock)