THE rand was more than 1% firmer against the dollar late on Friday after investors digested the European Central Bank’s (ECB) new stimulus measures announced on Thursday.

The ECB’s president, Mario Draghi, exceeded market expectations by cutting the bank’s main policy rate to zero and lowering its deposit rate further into negative territory to -0.4% from -0.3%.

The bank also announced plans to expand the bank’s asset purchase programme to €80bn a month and to start buying investment-grade corporate bonds.

At 3.25pm, the rand was at R15.2296 to the dollar from R15.4024 at Thursday’s close. It was at R16.9145 against the euro from R17.2272 and R21.7784 against the pound from R22.0123. The euro was at $1.1106 from $1.1180 previously.

In its daily economic report, NKC Research said the wave of stimulus measures announced in Europe drove the rand to its strongest level against greenback yesterday since late December, though technical resistance around the psychological R15/$ level proved too strong.

The rand subsequently handed back its earlier gains as the market recalibrated, NKC researchers said.

At the close of local trade on Thursday, the rand was quoted 0.4% weaker at R15.29 to the dollar after moving in a range of R15.03/$ to R15.32/$. The rand hovered in a tight range overnight as the excitement from the European monetary stimulus announcement wore off.

The rand has rebounded somewhat since hitting record lows in thin liquidity during mid-January, aided by hawkish action from the Reserve Bank and generally calmer emerging markets. However, some gains have been surrendered in the wake of an "underwhelming" fiscal budget speech and risks remain stacked to the downside, the economists said.