The volatile rand was weaker ahead of the weekend, but off its worst intraday level of 8.70 to the US dollar, as international data releases hit emerging markets.
The rand suffered another blow in afternoon trade when the weak US payroll data, compounded by already disappointing macro-economic figures from China and Europe, hit the market.
The local currency began to slide in midday trade, after UK manufacturing PMI data was lower than expected. The UK measure for May fell to 45.9, versus 50.2 in April.
Locally, the PMI was somewhat more positive but didnt sway the market. The seasonally adjusted PMI, remained relatively stable at 53.6 index points in May from 53.7 in April, pointing to contained activity in the sector.
Today has been very volatile, we moved from 8.53 to 8.70 and back again. The markets are unsure and much of the trade has been rumour driven as usual. The data releases didnt help much either. Monday and Tuesday are holidays in the UK so there may be some profit taking ahead of that - otherwise well probably just track the euro, a local trader said.
At 15:57 the rand was bid at R8.6015 to the dollar from Thursdays close of 8.5006. It was bid at R10.6572 to the euro from Thursdays close of R10.5131 and at R13.2253 against sterling from R13.0997 at Thursdays close. The euro was bid at US$1.2393 from Thursdays close of $1.2364.
Dow Jones Newswires reported that a further decline in eurozone manufacturing on Friday and a climb in the number of jobless people to a fresh record suggested that the region's economy would continue to flounder in the second quarter as its debt crisis deepens.
Manufacturing activity in Spain, which is fighting to rescue one of its biggest banks and avoid becoming another casualty of the crisis, fell to a three-year low; its reading under-performing even that of Greece. Germany and France also posted figures at or near three-year lows.
The final manufacturing purchasing managers' index for the 17-nation currency bloc fell to 45.1 in May from 45.9 in April, marking a near-three-year low, Markit Economics said on Friday. That is the tenth straight month that the manufacturing PMI has been below the key 50 threshold, which signals activity is shrinking month-to-month.
May's reading was very slightly improved from a preliminary reading of 45.0 published last month.
Official statistics also published on Friday showed the number of people out of work in the eurozone rose in April to its highest level ever recorded in the history of the currency union.
European Union statistics agency Eurostat said there were 17.4 million people without jobs in the 17 nations that use the euro in April, an increase of 110,000 since March and 1.8 million higher than a year earlier.
That's the highest total since comparable records began in January 1995, a spokesman said.
The bloc's seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate remained stable at 11 percent in April, in line with economists' expectations, following a small upward revision to March's figure to 11 percent from 10.9 percent previously.
The rise in unemployment is likely to weigh on consumer spending and hold back the currency union's economy. Rising joblessness may also fuel discontent with the austerity programmes underway in many member states.
Signs that the eurozone economy is weakening further have added to investor concerns that the region will struggle to escape its debt crisis intact. High borrowing costs in Spain have sparked fears that country could soon need financial aid, joining Ireland, Portugal and Greece. Austerity measures across the bloc have suppressed economic activity, making it harder for governments to repay debts.
"The damage to the real economy caused by the region's financial and political crises continues to spread across the region," said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, referring to the PMI data.
He said May's figures suggest manufacturing will be a "major drag" on gross domestic product in the second quarter. The eurozone barely escaped recession in the first quarter, posting zero growth after a 0.3 percent contraction in output in the fourth quarter.
But the current rate of decline in manufacturing is still "nowhere near as severe" as at the height of the crisis in 2008/2009 that followed the collapse of investment bank Lehman Bros, Williamson said.
A spate of poor data from Asia on Friday showed the downturn isn't limited to Europe, and also pointed to faltering demand for European goods in other markets.
Two purchasing managers indexes for China fell in May, stoking speculation Beijing may have to respond aggressively to support growth. A rare trade deficit in Indonesia and an unexpected fall in South Korea's exports, considered a bellwether for Asia, added to the gloom.
"The green shoots of recovery that we were seeing a month or so back are wilting away," said Rob Subbaraman, chief Asia economist at Nomura Securities.
A weak performance from Germany suggested Europe's biggest economy is struggling to escape the troubles of its weaker neighbours.
In Germany, Europe's biggest economy, the manufacturing activity index fell to 45.2 from 46.2 in April. France's PMI sank to 44.7 from 46.9.
German industrial giant Siemens AG's (SI, SIE.XE) Chief Executive Peter Loscher said in April that the global economy seemed to be stabilising, but at a considerably lower level, and last week he said the company's growth in its home market was set to slow.
"In the core countries, the picture ... looks alarmingly weak," said Ken Wattret, chief eurozone economist at BNP Paribas.
Spain's manufacturing PMI dropped to 42.0 from 43.5, meaning it is now suffering the biggest month-to-month decline of all the countries surveyed.
There were some slight improvements. Italy's reading edged up to 44.8 from 43.8, an unexpected improvement that nonetheless left activity contracting at a steep pace. Greece's reading hit an eight-month high at 43.1, but likewise still showed activity falling sharply month-to-month.
Bonds rally on safe haven flows
South African bonds were firmer in afternoon trade on Friday after poor US jobs data resulted in global equity markets dropping with resultant flows into safe havens such as bonds.
At 15:53, the benchmark R157 bond was trading at 6.350 percent from Thursdays close of 6.390 percent. The R207 was bid at 7.640 percent and offered at 7.610 percent from a previous close of 7.645 percent and the R186 was trading at 8.400 percent from its close of 8.375 percent.