Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The JSE was slightly weaker on Wednesday morning, with gains by gold miners failing to offset a slump by Shoprite.

The retailer warned on Tuesday that it expected headline earnings per share (HEPS) for the 26 weeks to end-December would fall as much as 36% compared with the previous period.

Shoprite has now joined Woolworths and Mr Price in releasing market-disappointing updates in January, underscoring the pressure consumers were under in 2018 due to rising fuel prices, stagnant wage growth and the first VAT increase in 25 years. 

At 10am Shoprite was down 9.87% to R160.88.

The all share was down 0.1% to 54,332.8 points and the top 40 had lost 0.07%. Industrials were down 0.49%, and food and drug retailers 3.51%. Gold miners were up 1.87%.

Gold was up 0.23% at $1,314.39/oz and platinum 0.39% to $816.86.

Brent crude was flat at $61.28 a barrel.

Gold miners found support ahead of the US Federal Reserve monetary policy decision, due after local markets close on Wednesday.

The Fed is widely expected to retain a dovish tone struck so far in comments from policymakers in January, something that could benefit gold. A more dovish Fed usually softens the dollar, making gold more affordable to those purchasing commodities in other currencies. Gold is also seen as a hedge against loose monetary policy.

There are a few domestic issues to give the market direction on Wednesday, but investors are digesting the news that a decision on unbundling Eskom could be made within a month.

Eskom’s future is expected to be debated during a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Government revenue data for December is due at 1pm, which could give signs of how healthy the state’s balance sheet is ahead of the February budget speech.

US-China trade talks could also generate headlines. US officials said on Tuesday that all tariffs could be lifted against China, should adequate concessions be made.

Lewis gained 5.83% to R32.70, after earlier saying comparable store sales grew 6% in the quarter to end-December.

Diversified miner BHP was up 1.07% to R297.78.

Harmony Gold had gained 4.35% to R27.59.

gernetzkyk@businesslive.co.za