The Johannesburg Stock Exchange, in Sandton, Johannesburg. File picture: ROBERT TSHABALALA
The Johannesburg Stock Exchange, in Sandton, Johannesburg. File picture: ROBERT TSHABALALA

The JSE firmed on Thursday, tracking major bourses in Europe and the US, as an element of risk-on trade crept back into the market.

The rand was slightly weaker, but banks and retailers cheered overnight gains, while positive local data failed to lift mining indices amid easing geopolitical tension.

Earlier, data showed local mining production grew 3.1% in February compared to the same month in 2017, beating a Trading Economics forecast of 2.3%. Miners had been supported by robust commodity prices, with The Economist metals index registering highs over the past few months that were last seen several years ago, said Investec economist Lara Hodes.

This week, investors have grappled with trade-war fears, concern of a US-Russia conflict over Syria, and mixed local and international economic data. While these factors explained why investors weren’t feeling particularly bullish, the chances of either materialising was unlikely, said Oanda analyst Craig Erlam. This should prevent any equity sell-off from getting out of hand.

The Cboe volatility index — commonly known as the Wall Street fear gauge or Vix — had dropped 6% shortly before the close of the JSE. The index tracks market expectation of volatility for the coming month.

The all share closed 0.55% higher at 56,481 points and the top 40 added 0.68%. Banks rose 1.96%, financials 0.9%, industrials 0.78% and property 0.32%. The gold index shed 2.96%, the platinum index 2.73% and resources 0.39%.

Sasol firmed 0.9% to R427. Harmony slumped 7.39% to R25.20 and Impala Platinum 4.33% to R22.96.

Standard Bank rose 2.99% to R215.18 but Capitec lost 1.1% to R844.25.

Steinhoff gained 1.66% to R2.45 and Steinhoff African Retail 0.73% to R19.40.

Resilient lost 1.61% to R64.25 and Fortress B 4% to R16.08. Growthpoint gained 1.81% to R28.74.

Naspers jumped 2.22% to R3,070 in choppy trade.

Group Five added 1.72% to R4.13, despite reporting earlier that its interim net loss nearly tripled, to R760m in the six months to end-December. This was largely due to penalties incurred in delays for its Kpone project in Ghana.

At 5.40pm, the Dow was up 1.27%, while in Europe, the DAX 30 had risen 1.03% and the CAC 40 0.59%, while the FTSE 100 was flat.

At the same time, gold had lost 1.22% to $1,336.81 an ounce and platinum 0.25% to $928.53. Brent crude was off 0.38% to $71.66 a barrel.

The top 40 Alsi futures index gained 0.53% to 50,275 points. The number of contracts traded was 13,529 from Wednesday’s 17,109.