* Rand firms on upbeat GDP data
* Economic recovery reduces risk of credit downgrades
* Stocks led lower by rand hedge shares (Updates figures, fresh quotes, gives detail)
JOHANNESBURG, Sept 5 (Reuters) - South Africa’s rand firmed against the dollar on Tuesday after data showed the economy emerged from recession in the second quarter.
Stocks fell, however, led by declines in rand hedge shares.
At 1505 GMT, the rand traded at 12.8850 per dollar, 0.73 percent firmer than its New York close on Monday.
The rand remained beyond the important 13.00 technical support mark, indicating positive momentum.
“The fact that the economy has managed to climb out of recession in (the second quarter) is likely to allay some fears of further credit ratings downgrades later this year and, in our view, should bode in favour of the currency, at least in the short term,” said BNP Paribas South Africa economist Jeff Schultz.
Africa’s most industrialised economy grew 2.5 percent in the three months to the end of June, bouncing back from a technical recession following two consecutive quarters of contracting, data from Statistics South Africa showed.
Government bonds also firmed, with the yield for the benchmark paper due in 2026 closing 6 basis points lower at 8.455 percent.
On the stock market, the Top-40 index closed down 0.3 percent at 49,643 points and the broader all-share slipped 0.3 percent to 56,145 points.
Among the biggest losers were rand-hedged stocks, which make the bulk of their revenue outside South Africa and tend to weaken as the currency strengthens.
“A stronger rand is not going to help the rand hedges,” said Independent Securities trader Ryan Woods.
British American Tobacco dropped 0.77 percent to 802.77 rand and South African-listed shares in Mediclinic declined 0.75 percent to 126.43 rand.
Other losers included Rhodes Food which plummeted 15.35 percent to 19.75 rand, a more than 17-month low, after flagging a drop in earnings of up to 27 percent. (Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg and Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by Susan Fenton)