* Rand stalls as Zuma exit talks drag
* Stocks down led by Gold Fields
(Adds latest prices, analyst comments)
JOHANNESBURG, Feb 8 (Reuters) - South Africa's rand edged
firmer on Thursday but remained above the crucial 12.00 mark
against the dollar as the continuing stalemate over President
Jacob Zuma's future capped demand.
Stocks fell on Thursday led by mining firm Gold Fields
after the firm flagged lower earnings.
At 1440 GMT the rand was 0.04 percent firmer at
12.0600 per dollar compared to an overnight close at 12.0650.
Early trading locally saw low volumes and the unit drifting
around 12.10 before buying interest, as traders in London and
later New York came online, spurred the currency towards
resistance level around 12.02.
The unit this week has struggled to push beyond last week's
rally to 11.8500, a touch off its 2-1/2 year best, with optimism
over the speedy removal of Zuma from office waning, leaving the
currency open to profit-taking.
On Thursday leaked comments from ruling African National
Congress's Paul Mashatile revealed the party had been preparing
to fire Zuma at the weekend, but a negotiated exit was now more
likely as the incumbent dug in.
"As long as the optimism about a fresh start in politics
does not fade the rand is likely to trend stronger against the
dollar," said analyst at Germany-based Commerzbank Alexandra
Bechtel in a note.
Bonds weakened, with the yield for the benchmark government
bond due in 2026 was up 3 basis points to 8.43
The country's dollar bonds fell across the curve on with the
2041 issue down 1.7 cents to a near two-month low as the
political deadlock over Zuma's future continued.
On the bourse, the benchmark Top-40 index fell 0.49
percent to 49,935 points while the All-Share index
lowered 0.44 percent to 56,636 points.
"It was a big miss, they [the market] expected better
results from Gold Fields," said BP Bernstein trader Vasili
Gold Fields closed down 4.06 percent to 47.76 rand
after falling more than 5 percent in intra-day trade after the
firm warned that profits could be down as much as 12 percent.
Further losses came from the resource sector which cam under
pressure amid a stronger dollar, with Lonmin 3.95
percent lower to 11.20 rand and AngloGold Ashanti
dropping 2.73 percent to 121.15 rand.
(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana and Tanisha Heiberg)
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