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UPDATE 1-South Africa's rand extends data-driven gains, stocks flat

(Updates with closing prices and fresh quotes)

JOHANNESBURG, March 23 South Africa's rand maintained a data-fuelled rally on Thursday sparked in the previous session by better-than-expected current account figures and a softer inflation print.

At 1340 GMT, the rand was 0.48 percent firmer at 12.51 per dollar, having closed at 12.5700 overnight in New York, in a run that has been broad-based.

"We're seeing strength against all its frontier market currency peers, not just the dollar," said IG South Africa senior market analyst Shaun Murison, who said if the rand remains below 13 to the dollar it could make a move to 12.30.

On Wednesday, Q4 2016 current account data showed the financial deficit was at its smallest in nearly six years while February consumer inflation retreated.

The data opens room for a possible rate cut by the South African Reserve Bank at its policy meeting next week but most analysts do not see this until early next year as it remains cautious about currency moves, a Reuters poll forecast indicated on Thursday.

Stocks ended flat in line with the opening of U.S markets, which were little moved in early trade amid signs that President Donald Trump is struggling to get enough votes to pass a healthcare bill in Congress.

Decliners included South Africa's Life Healthcare, which closed 2.2 percent lower after announcing the price of its 9 billion rand ($720 million) rights issue at a larger than expected discount on Wednesday. "This was the first time they disclosed the rights issue price ... (at) a discount of around 30 percent which is larger than the market expected," said 36One Asset Management analyst Shmuel Simpson.

On the bourse, the benchmark Top-40 index dipped 0.02 percent to 44,845.23 points while the All-Share index crept 0.13 percent lower to 52,027.98 points.

In fixed income, government bonds were little changed with the yield on 2026 benchmark up 1 basis point to 8.330 percent. (Reporting by Olwethu Boso,; Editing by Ed Stoddard and Ed Osmond)

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