Picture: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS
Picture: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS

The JSE gave up earlier gains to close flat on Thursday, as global markets came under pressure from disappointing US data.

A softer rand had earlier supported miners and rand hedges, as the local currency weakened above the psychologically important R14/$ mark for the first time since early January. The currency’s three-month implied volatility — a measure of risk — rose to 17.45% on Thursday afternoon, eclipsing the Turkish lira’s 17.10%.

Global trade was initially risk-on, with markets watching as two-days of US-China trade talks got underway in Beijing.

However, sentiment turned negative after US retail sales in December fell 1.2% month-on-month, the worst decline in nine years, and a figure that sparked recession fears, reported Dow Jones Newswires.

The all share edged 0.03% lower to 54,527.1 points while the top 40 gave up 0.08%. Banks fell 2%, food and drug retailers 2.1% and financials 1.54%. Platinums added 2.89% and gold miners 2.33%.

Earlier, local data was disappointing. Mining production in December slumped 4.8% year-on-year, much worse than the consensus forecast of a drop of 0.6%.

Analysts said a series of disappointing domestic data releases could put SA’s growth forecast for 2019 at risk. Trade is also expected to be cautious ahead of next week’s budget policy statement.

“We are concerned about the outlook for 2019, despite the relatively weak 2018 base, as rising input costs, low commodity prices, poor electricity generation and slowing Chinese growth present material downside risks to the mining sector,” said FNB chief economist Mamello Matikinca-Ngwenya.

South32 gained 2.41% to R37.76, having said earlier that headline earnings per share (HEPS) in the six months to end-December grew 12.5% compared with the same period in 2017.

Sibanye-Stillwater gained 1.6% to R14.65 after saying it may cut more than 6,000 jobs as it battles a three-month wage strike at its gold operations.

Rand hedge British American Tobacco gained 1.33% to R513.

Clicks slumped 4.27% to R177.

Lighthouse Capital — formerly known as Greenbay — fell 0.15% to R6.88. It reported earlier that it has swung into a headline loss of 7.76 euro cents per share in the three months to end-December, from HEPS of 4.52 euro cents in the prior comparative period.

Curro gave back 5.24% to R25.70. It had surged 9.35% on Wednesday after reporting 25% growth in HEPS for the year to end-December. It also declared a maiden dividend of 12c per share.

Italtile was flat at R13.29, despite earlier reporting that trading profit was up 35% to R968m in the six months to end-December.

Shortly after the JSE closed the Dow was down 0.92% at 25,308.78 points. In Europe, the FTSE 100 and CAC 40 were flat, while the DAX 30 had lost 0.62%.

At the same time, gold was up 0.32% to $1,310.62/oz while platinum had lost 0.66% to $780.71. Brent crude was down 0.25% to $63.52 a barrel.

The rand was 0.99% weaker at R14.20/$.

gernetzkyk@businesslive.co.za