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JOHANNESBURG, March 8 (Reuters) - South Africa’s rand firmed on Friday, recovering from a nine-week low after sluggish U.S. employment data pushed the dollar lower and saw demand for emerging markets return.
At 1600 GMT, the rand was 0.55 percent firmer at 14.4300 per dollar compared with a close of 14.5100 overnight in New York.
The U.S. data showed employers hired far fewer workers than forecast in February, although the jobless rate fell and wages grew more than expected.
“The one saving grace is that the Fed will surely kick any talk of rate hikes further into the future,” said Ulas Akincilar, head of trading at INFINOX.
A lengthy pause in rate hikes by the Federal Reserve is set to keep demand for emerging markets solid as investors hunt for returns.
The rand had slumped to its weakest since Jan. 3 in the previous session after dovish signals from the European Central Bank (ECB) and global growth concerns hurt assets perceived as riskier. But it perked up on the weaker dollar, which was down 0.3 percent.
Bonds also gained, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year paper down 4 basis points to 8.665 percent.
Stocks ended slightly lower, with Aspen taking a hammering on growing worries about the drugmaker’s debts.
The JSE Top-40 index was down 0.87 percent at 49,233 points and the broader All-share index slipped 0.66 percent to 55,488.
Aspen slumped nearly a third to 100.21 rand on worries about the company’s 54 billion rand debt pile.
“Investors have re-rated the Aspen stock and ... they are concerned by the high levels of debt we have,” Aspen’s Deputy Chief Executive Gus Attridge said.
Tongaat saw its shares plunge 28 percent to 22.00 rand after the embattled sugar maker said it had yet to conclude a turnaround strategy and its ongoing review had revealed practices that could have a “material effect on the price of the company’s securities”. (Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana and Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by Mark Potter)