The JSE was flat on Thursday as gains in general retailers, gold miners and banks were offset by Naspers.

Interest rate-sensitive shares, such as banks and general retailers, fared best on the day, as fewer interest rate increases in the US could give the Reserve Bank room to keep rates on hold.

An air of caution returned to global markets on Thursday, amid some doubts as to the timing of any US-China trade deal.  Progress in mid-level talks between the two countries had bolstered the market earlier in the week, but analysts cautioned a final deal still seemed some way off.

The all share added 0.09% to 53,271 points and the top 40 0.05%. General retailers gained 1.71% and banks 1.55%. The resources index lost 0.84%.

The US Federal Reserve minutes showed a dovish stance from policy makers on Wednesday, indicating that Fed officials are prepared to keep rates on hold until there is greater clarity on what risks global growth faces. Forthcoming event risks include the release of the US inflation figures on Friday. Given the dovish stance by the Fed, this could be closely watched by investors.

According to economists polled by Bloomberg, US inflation is expected to slow to 1.9% in December from 2.2% in November.

A less-hawkish stance from US policy makers could alleviate the pressure on emerging-market currencies and interest rates, Investec chief economist Annabel Bishop said.

Naspers, the company with the biggest weighting on the all share, lost 0.63% to R2,954.16.

Trading ex-dividend, diversified miner BHP lost 1.48% to R284.73, extending Wednesday’s 4.13% loss. Glencore fell 1.95% to R51.68.

Cashbuild gained 3.96% to R302 and TFG 3.74% to R173.55.

Rand hedge British American Tobacco added 1.38% to R451.05.

Asian markets came under pressure after disappointing data emerged from China showing that factory-gate inflation had eased to 0.9% in December from 2.7% the month before.

On the local front, manufacturing data slowed in line with expectations but pointed to continued positive momentum in the fourth quarter of 2018, while the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) business confidence index (BCI) for December dipped slightly.

“November’s slowdown in manufacturing growth supports our view that GDP growth eased in the fourth quarter after a very strong third quarter,” Capital Economics economist John Ashbourne said. “But activity still remained strong and we think that headline growth will accelerate in 2019.”

Shortly after the JSE closed, the Dow was down 0.66% at 23,722.18 points, while in Europe the FTSE 100 had lost 0.14%, the CAC 40 0.66%, and the DAX 30 0.64%.

At the same time, platinum had fallen 0.3% to $822.21/oz and gold 0.2% to $1,290.62/oz. Brent crude had lost 0.57% to $60.99 a barrel.