JOHANNESBURG - The South African rand strengthened on Friday as the country's utility Eskom said it would reduce the length of rolling power cuts over the weekend.

At 1529 GMT, the rand traded at 17.1275 against the dollar, 0.72% stronger than its previous close.

The past week has seen some of the worst power outages on record in Africa's most industrialised nation, at least six hours a day for most households and often as much as 10 hours.

The power cuts are a major source of frustration with the governing African National Congress ahead of elections in 2024, when the party could lose its majority in parliament for the first time since the end of apartheid.

Eskom said in a short statement power outages would be reduced to "Stage 3" on Saturday and to "Stage 2" on Sunday morning.

On the stock market, the Top-40 index ended 0.19% lower, while the broader all-share dropped 0.3%.

Shares in Mr Price fell more than 7% after the budget fashion retailer reported a 34% surge in third-quarter sales boosted mostly by a recent acquisition, but investors fretted over its underlying performance as sales growth excluding the deal slowed.

"Although the trading update resulted in a share price decline, we still regard Mr Price as the best positioned local clothing retailer due to its value proposition, cash generation ability and balance sheet strength," Bianca Lakha, an analyst at Old Mutual Wealth Private Client Securities, said in a research note.

The government's benchmark 2030 bond was weaker in afternoon deals, with the yield up 5 basis points to 9.790%.

(Reporting by Alexander Winning, Anait Miridzhanian and Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Alex Richardson)