Picture: JSE
Picture: JSE

The JSE could open slightly higher on Thursday as Asian markets recover following sharp declines over the past week as US-China trade tensions escalated. Meanwhile, at least three top-40 companies are due to report half-year results on Thursday.

The slight recovery in Asia Pacific markets comes after three central banks in the region — in New Zealand, India and Thailand — took bigger measures than expected to aid their economies, amid concerns about a global slowdown that is partly the result of the protracted trade war between the US and China.

“The souring mood was not helped at the European open, with German industrial production for June revealing a much bigger than expected decline,” Rodrigo Catril, currency strategist at National Australia Bank, said in a note on Thursday.

US markets ended slightly higher overnight as President Donald Trump once again bemoaned the Federal Reserve’s cautious approach to interest rate cuts.

Asian markets were mostly higher on Thursday. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 0.7% and the Shanghai Composite 0.9%. Japan’s Nikkei 225 gained 0.5%, Korea’s Kospi 1% and Australia’s main benchmark 0.4%.

WeChat owner Tencent, which influences the direction of the JSE all-share index via major shareholder Naspers, jumped 2% in Hong Kong. 

JSE-listed miner BHP Group gained 1.3% in Australia.

Standard Bank Group, Africa’s biggest lender and the JSE top-40 index’s seventh-biggest constituent, is due to report half-year results on Thursday morning. 

Mobile operator MTN Group will also report interim numbers. The group’s Nigerian and Ghanaian units have already reported. Service revenue from MTN Ghana grew 18.8% in the six months to end-June, while service revenue from MTN Nigeria increased by 12.2%.

AngloGold Ashanti will also publish interim results. The miner said recently headline earnings in the six months to end-June would be between $111m and $129m, from $99m previously.

Stats SA will release mining and manufacturing data for June. Elsewhere, an economic update is due from the EU, initial jobless claims numbers are expected from the US, and China will publish trade data.

“Details in the [Chinese trade] report are unlikely to paint a pretty picture, with both exports and imports anticipated to show further declines in July,” Catril said.

The rand, which has had a torrid week amid risk-off sentiment, was firmer on Thursday morning at R14.98/$, R18.22/£ and R16.79/€.

“With Friday being a public holiday, local consolidation will take place today rather than tomorrow, adding to the volatility” of the rand, said Bianca Botes, treasury partner at Peregrine Treasury Solutions.

“In the short term, the rand could potentially regain some momentum as central banks globally look to cut rates on the back of growth woes.”

hedleyn@businesslive.co.za