Picture SUNDAY TIMES
Picture SUNDAY TIMES

The JSE closed weaker on Thursday in broad-based losses as gold and platinum shares retreated on the stronger rand, despite commodity prices lifting toward the close.

At 5pm, platinum had risen 1.18% to $978.81 an ounce while gold had gained 0.26% to $1,281.48.

Rand hedges were also affected by the stronger currency but banks and general retailers recorded gains. Property ended flat in choppy trade.

At the JSE’s close the rand was at R13.1573 to the dollar from Wednesday’s R13.2738 after hitting a three-week best level of R13.1148 in intra-day trade.

The tone was somewhat inconsistent for most of the day as the market remained cautious on further rand strength and political developments following a speech by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa in which he affirmed his support for radical economic transformation.

"The local market has largely been shrugging off local political uncertainty," said Old Mutual Equities boutique head Peter Linley. However, geopolitical tension has put a damper on global stock markets, with US stock markets coming off highs, notwithstanding well-received banking results, with the exception of Goldman Sachs.

"European market have also been weaker," Linley said. European bourses are expected to trade cautiously ahead of the first round of the French presidential election over the weekend.

Given the high level of undecided French voters, the fragmentation of votes with four candidates who are neck and neck, and an unusually high volatility of opinions just three days before the vote, the outcome remains highly uncertain, Barclays Research analysts said, with polls continuing to suggest that right-wing candidate, Marine Le Pen, has a very low chance of winning the election.

This has supported a firmer euro and weaker dollar, contributing to the rand gains.

The Dow Jones was 0.46% higher at the JSE’s close while the FTSE 100 was flat. The Paris CAC 40 had risen 1.75%.

Brent crude was flat at $52.95 a barrel after earlier slumping to a six-week low as expanding US production countered a fall in stockpiles.

The JSE closed 0.09% lower at 52,496.60 points and the blue-chip top 40 dropped 0.08%. The gold index shed 3.38% and platinums 2.15%. Food and drug retailers dropped 0.68% and resources 0.66%. General retailers rose 1.05%, banks 0.78% and industrials 0.16%.

Diversified miner BHP Billiton shed 0.36% to R203.77 and Sasol 0.96% to R396.79.

Sibanye Gold slumped 4.29% to R29.86 and Anglo American Platinum 5% to R351.50.

After being weaker earlier, Remgro recovered late in the day, adding 0.38% to R215.71.

FirstRand gained 1.15% to R48.25 and Standard Bank 0.51% to R142.73.

In retailers, Spar was off 0.56% to R178.50, while Pick n Pay edged up 0.26% to R61.85 after closing weaker on Wednesday following the release of its annual results.

Capital & Counties gave up 1.93% to R53.40 and New Europe Properties 1.52% to R142.50.

Naspers was up 1.15% to R2,478.92.

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