JSE closes flat as unchanged rate decision drives retailers and banks lower
The JSE closed weaker on Thursday in high-volume trade, following the Reserve Bank’s decision to keep rates unchanged with interest-rate sensitive indices, such as retailers and banks, faring worst.
Volumes traded amounted to more than R53bn, boosted by the quarterly futures close-out, from a daily average of about R20bn. This was despite trading starting nearly two hours late due to unspecified technical problems.
Banking and retailer stocks had been steadily rising earlier in the week on the prospect of an expected cut in the repo rate of 25 basis points, which did not materialise.
Property stocks were the main gainers on the slightly higher inflation forecasts from the Bank, as property portfolios with inflation-linked leases can benefit if higher inflation pushes bond yields up.
Industrials and resources staged a late recovery despite a stronger rand, led by Anglo American and Naspers. Gold shares closed lower on the weaker gold price after the US Federal Reserve hinted at a possible rate hike in December.
The gold price was 0.64% lower at $1,292.14 an ounce, dropping below $1,300 for the first time since the end of August.
Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago cited heightened uncertainty in the economy, and upside risks to inflation from the potential 20% electricity-tariff hike Eskom is seeking, and their knock-on effects. Looming US interest rate hikes, which would put pressure on the rand, were also a concern.
"Core inflation has remained relatively stable, however, a number of risks to the inflation outlook have increased and the monetary policy committee (MPC) assessed the risks to the inflation outlook to be somewhat on the upside," Kganyago said.
Analysts were divided on the prospects of a rate cut later in the year and in 2018. Capital Economics analyst John Ashbourne said the expectation was for a cut of 25 basis points at the MPC’s next meeting in November. "We expect that today’s decision represented only a brief pause in the loosening cycle," he said.
However, FNB chief economist Sizwe Nxedlana said that while the Bank could cut interest rates further, the time horizon in which it may achieve this was relatively short, given various macro-economic risks ahead. "Inflation is forecast to start lifting again from mid-2018 onwards, which will constrain the possibility of further policy easing in the second half of next year," he said.
The Dow opened flat, as did the FTSE 100 in late trade, while France’s CAC 40 was last up 0.60%.
Commodity prices were weaker, with platinum losing 0.45% to $934.78 an ounce.
The all share closed flat at 55,867.30 points and the blue-chip top 40 lost 0.05%. The gold index shed 4.80%, general retailers 1.99%, banks 1.6%, and financials 0.43%. Property added 1.39%, the platinum index 0.37%, and resources 0.20%.
Anglo American gained 3.02% to R239 after Indian billionaire Anil Agarwal indicated he was set to increase his already large shareholding in the diversified miner.
Sasol recovered 1.34% to R378 after being hammered on Wednesday following the announcement of a new shareholding plan for black investors.
British American Tobacco dropped 1.36% to R818.86.
Remgro lost 1.28% to R210.55. It reported late on Wednesday that annual headline earnings per share, excluding one-off costs and option re-measurement, fell 3.4%.
Harmony Gold plummeted 8.31% to R23.84 and Sibanye 5.47% to R15.22.
Barclays Africa fell 2.02% to R138.49, Standard Bank 1.85% to R160.39, and FirstRand 1.82% to R53.43. Capitec bucked the trend, closing 1.69% higher at a record R913.
Among financials, MMI Holdings shed 3.02% to R18.60, Liberty Holdings 1.14% to R103.54, and Discovery 0.34% to R144.32.
In the property sector, Growthpoint rose 1.83% to R25.10, Resilient 1.74% to R135, and Redefine 1.67% to R10.97.
Naspers closed 0.44% higher at R2,985.40.
Astral Foods gained 5.82% to R164.85. It gained nearly 7% on Wednesday following the release of a trading update.
Ascendis Health rose 3.78% to R20.34.
Spur jumped 6.2% to R31.