The JSE closed firmer on Monday ahead of Human Rights Day on Tuesday, as general retailers gained in thin trade, supported by a strong performance from Naspers.

Volumes were very low ahead of the public holiday, only reaching R8.6bn at the close from an average daily R24bn.

General retailers gained on the firmer rand, which reached a best level of R12.6293 against the dollar in intraday trade before softening prior to the close. Property stocks rebounded from a sharp retraction on Friday.

Naspers closed at its highest level in four months, buoyed by trade in its Chinese Tencent investment, of which Naspers owns 34%. Tencent traded at a record high in Hong Kong.

Naspers lost 5% last year, but is 13.7% higher in 2017. However, it has fallen 23% from its peak in September.

Resources and gold stocks weakened on the firmer rand, despite spot prices picking up in intraday trade.

At the JSE’s close platinum was up 0.56% at $969 an ounce and gold rose 0.31% to $1,232 an ounce. Brent crude was down 0.50% to $51.47 a barrel.

The all share closed 0.39% higher at 52,753.6 points and the blue-chip top 40 added 0.44%. General retailers rose 1.29% and industrials gained 0.85%. Food and drug retailers lifted 0.35%. Financials added 0.28%. Resources shed 0.58% and the gold index dropped 0.52%.

The Dow opened 0.14% higher at the JSE’s close, but had not traded above 21,000 points for nearly two weeks. European markets were mostly unchanged, with the FTSE 100 flat on UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s announcement that the official Article 50 notice for Brexit would be communicated to the EU on March 29.

The all share has gained 4.15% so far this year and the top 40 3.66%. Foreign investors sold nearly R600m worth of local shares on a net basis last week, bringing the tally of shares sold so far in 2017 to R31.7bn.

Essentially the all share and the top 40 indices have not broken out of their two-years-and-eight-months sideways range, said Stanlib retail investment director Paul Hansen.

"But this masks a lot more 52-week or all-time record highs among individual shares lately," he said.

These include food shares, with Tiger Brands at a record high and RCL Foods and Pioneer Foods gaining strongly.

Capitec hit an annual high on Monday.

Hansen said there was more life in the local stock market than the averages were reflecting. "Averages were being restrained by rand strength, because so many of the big companies are rand hedges," he said.

Among the big miners Anglo American was 0.94% lower at R201.02.

Sasol closed 1.3% lower at R363.73, and Kumba Iron Ore was down 1.53% to R212.72.

Among rand hedges, Anheuser-Busch InBev was 0.7% lower at R1,419.01.

Gold stock Sibanye retreated 2.06% to R26.67.

Anglo American Platinum lost 2.46% to R295.64 and Lonmin shed 1.04% to R15.20.

Among banks, Capitec closed 1.11% higher at R805, a new record.

Discovery gained 1.11% to R137.42, and Steinhoff closed 0.74% lower at R64.80.

Among retailers Truworths added 2.81% to R93.77. Massmart added 1.11% to R152.61 and Mr Price was 1.39% higher at R177.

Growthpoint closed 0.58% up at R27.56 and Hyprop gained 2.38% to R134.44.

Naspers ended the day 3.31% higher at R2,291.20.

Tiso Blackstar rose 2.63% to R9.75 after announcing an interim dividend in its results released earlier in the day.

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