Picture: JSE
Picture: JSE

The JSE opened firmer on Thursday as banks and financials rose on a steady rand but retailers remained under pressure.

The rand was at R15.42 to the dollar; it opened around R15.53 after weakening to R15.697 on Wednesday.

Naspers shares slipped below R3,000 for the first time since May in early trade as Chinese internet company Tencent tumbled 3.6% in Hong Kong.

Tencent, of which Naspers owns a third, has been under pressure lately as the Chinese authorities clamp down on gaming in the country. Tencent earns most of its profits from game downloading and is dependent on the issuing of licences by the Chinese authorities.

Naspers recovered marginally later in the morning but has not closed higher in five sessions and is 13% down in 2018. It derives as much as 84% of revenue from outside SA, with Tencent the main contributor.

US markets ended Wednesday’s session mostly lower or flat, with tech and consumer shares on the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq losing ground. Twitter and Facebook were among the worst performers, losing 6.1% and 2.3% respectively, after their executives testified about online misinformation.

"Chinese and Hong Kong markets were weaker ahead of the possible escalation of the trade war with the US," Nedbank Corporate and Investment Banking analysts said.

The US could propose new tariffs on more than $200bn worth of Chinese goods on Thursday.

The Dow closed 0.09% higher and the Hang Seng was 1.32% lower on Thursday. The Shanghai Composite lost 0.47% and the Nikkei 225 0.41%.

At 9.40am the all share was 0.26% higher at 57,248.20 points and the top 40 gained 0.38%. Banks rose 2.15%, financials 0.87%, property 0.57% and platinums 0.54%. The gold index lost 0.18% and general retailers 0.05%.

Sasol gained 0.94% to R579.65.

Remgro rose 1.18% to R208.43.

FirstRand jumped 3.36% to R67 after reporting slightly higher than expected annual results. Headline earnings per share (HEPS) for the year to end-June rose 12%.

Sanlam was 1.47% lower at R75.49. Normalised headline earnings were up 10% for the interim period to end-June.

Steinhoff International rose 3.25% to R2.86 after former CEO Markus Jooste said in parliament he was unaware of any accounting irregularities at the group before his resignation in December 2017.

Among property stocks, Growthpoint rose 1.57% to R25.28 and Attacq 2.08% to R16.23, but Nepi Rockcastle slipped 0.88% to R141.97.

Naspers was 0.39% lower at R3,043.59.

Spur lost 1.43% to R26.80 after reporting restaurant sales rose 0.6% in the year to end-June. Comparable profit before tax was down 8%.