The JSE got off to a positive start on Wednesday morning, shaking off losses of the past two days, amid early signs of bottom-fishing bargain hunting.

Gold stocks were standout performers, off a very low base. The sector has rallied about 23% in the past three weeks, boosted mainly by the higher gold price and weaker dollar.

AngloGold Ashanti was now the best-performing stock among  blue-chip stocks, having gained 39% in the year to date, according to the Iress data.

Banks and insurance stocks were also higher on the day, as were  telecoms stocks and other big industrial stocks.

Those lifted the all share index 0.61% to 51,548.30 points, outplaying Asian benchmark indices, which were lower.

Still, the all share was on course for its worst annual performance since 2008, at the height of the global financial crisis.

Along with other global equity markets, the Alsi was caught up in the crossfire as the China and US squared up over tariffs, which fanned concerns over global growth.

The disappointing performance in the local economy has had a marked effect on locally oriented stocks, most of which are trading in correction territory and/or a bear market. The bear market refers to a share price drop of more than 20% from the peak.

The higher interest rates in the US in 2018 has also dented appetite for stocks in general, rendering the meeting of the US Federal Reserve on Wednesday even more important.

Markets will look for guidance on how the world's most influential central bank plans to approach its monetary policy, given the creeping concerns over global growth.

The US Fed is widely expected to increase rates by 25 basis points, bringing the total for the year to four.

AngloGold Ashanti was up 2.1% to R179.68, Gold Fields 1.72% to R47.81, Sibanye-Stillwater 2.62% to R10.17 and Harmony Gold 2.59% to R 24.58.

Food producer Tiger Brands gained 2.75% to R274.44 and MTN  2.45% to R86.19.

Healthcare group Mediclinic International rose 2.66% to  R59.88 and Ascendis 4.82% to R3.48.

Paper and pulp group Sappi rose 1.74% to R77.77 while property group Nepi Rockcastle jumped 4.39% to R110.80.