South Africa's rand was steady against the dollar in early Friday trade, with healthy flows to the stock market balancing out central bank dollar-buying, dealers said.

However, the bourse looked set to open on the back foot after booking a 2-1/2-year closing high on Thursday. The JSE's blue chip March stock futures contract was 0.24 percent lower ahead of the securities exchange's open at 0700 GMT.

The rand was trading at 6.8350 to the dollar at 0642 GMT, nearly unchanged from its close of 6.8446 on Thursday.

Analysts said money had been flowing out of the bond market in recent sessions due to concerns about levels of European debt, but the soaring stock market was continuing to pull in foreign cash.

There is a bit of flow on the equities side, a local trader said.

Market watchers say they were seeing increased dollar-buying from the central bank, which has said it will continue to build its foreign reserves whenever appropriate.

The rand appears comfortable at the 6.85 level and should trade in a 10 cent range in this session, dealers said.

Looking at the charts I think it could bounce to 6.88 but then it could come quiet steeply down, so the range is 6.78-6.88 for today. My view is that it comes down, the dealer said.

Government bonds were weaker as investors put more money in stocks. The yield on the 2015 bond was up two basis points at 7.51 percent and that on the 2026 issue rose 1.5 basis points to 8.505 percent.