The JSE weakened a little on Tuesday, as a spate of disappointing updates from retailers again underscored the fragile state of SA's economy.

Massmart crashed 20.96% to R90.65. It reported that total sales in the year to end-December grew 2.9% year on year. Sales growth over the Black Friday period were flat.

Shoprite fell 0.37% to R185.32. It said earlier that its total group sales declined 0.3% year on year in the December quarter, the second of its financial year. The disappointing update comes after poor updates from both Woolworths and Mr Price last week.

Analysts warned that the rising cost of petrol in 2018, a VAT increase as well as tepid wage growth, were finally beginning to filter through into retail activity.

Clicks fell 0.78% to R194.99, after saying earlier that total group retail sales increased 4.5% in comparable stores in the 20 weeks to January 13.

The all share fell 0.11% to 54,078.4 points and the top 40 lost 0.18%. Gold miners added 2.53% and banks 0.45%. General retailers lost 1.23%.

The global mood was risk-off, boosting investor interest in safe-haven assets, including gold. Rand weakness also provided some support for miners.

Diversified miner Glencore gave up 1.36% to R52.32 and BHP 1.64% to R283.23. Assore fell 1.82% to R297.77.

Gold Fields added 3.86% to R51.06 and AngloGold Ashanti 2.4% to R170.

Internationally, a downward revision of 2019 economic growth by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) weighed on sentiment, as did signs of rising tension between the US and China.

Reports suggested US authorities would soon formally request extradition of Huawei’s CFO, amid charges that she violated sanctions on Iran.

Analysts said the matter was still a side issue, but had the potential to ratchet up tension, even as the world’s two largest economies attempt to mend their trade relations.

Focus this week is now expected to shift to the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, where numerous policy makers are gathering to discuss geopolitical tension and the trade war.

Locally, consumer inflation data is due on Wednesday, and is expected to moderate, with the Reserve Bank turning somewhat dovish last week. Analysts maintain that the market is now pricing in only a 50% chance of an interest-rate increase in 2019, further warning that the Bank’s stance may be a little too dovish.

Shortly after the JSE closed the Dow was off 0.56% at 24,564.68 points, while in Europe, the FTSE 100 had lost 0.83%, the CAC 40 0.52% and the DAX 30 0.49%.

Gold was up 0.16% at $1,282.14/oz while platinum had fallen 0.83% to $790.65. Brent crude was 3.03% lower at $60.78 a barrel.