The JSE finished lower for a second consecutive day on Tuesday as fears over the coronavirus continue to weigh on investor sentiment.

Emerging-market stocks have been under pressure for a few days on rising worries about the economic effect of the virus, as the death toll rises.

Earlier, Chinese health authorities said that the outbreak had claimed more than 100 lives so far and infected about 4,500. Multiple cases of the virus have so far been confirmed in Hong Kong, Macao, Taipei, Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, France, Germany and the US.

Japanese economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura warned on Tuesday that corporate profits and factory production might take a hit from the virus, with its effect having rattled global markets and “chilled” confidence.

Global efforts aimed at stopping the spread of the virus have gathered momentum, with the US earlier advising against non-essential travel to China, while some companies in China and South Korea have been evacuating personnel and halting operations.

Markets in China and Hong Kong were closed on Tuesday for the extended Lunar New Year, while Japan’s Nikkei fell 0.55%.

Soon after the JSE closed, the Dow was up 0.5%, while, in Europe, the FTSE 100 had gained 0.67%, France’s CAC 40 0.71%. and Germany’s DAX 30 0.54%.

“We think it is better to wait for the rise in the number of cases [from the virus] to slow before getting positive about the markets again,” said London Capital Group head of research Jasper Lawler. “We know there is an incubation period of 14 days and the virus can be passed on when the subject is not showing symptoms. Putting that together, we could be on the cusp of a plateau or a massive escalation in the number of cases.”

The JSE all share closed 0.28% lower at 55,748.2 points and the top 40 fell 0.3%. Banks were flat, while financials lost 0.51% and gold miners 3.61%. The platinum index was the only major gauge in positive territory, up 1.66%.

Lewis, one of SA’s largest furniture brands, saw its share price increase as much as 10% in intra-day trade, following more than a week of daily losses, after it issued a strong third-quarter trading update, largely thanks to Black Friday shopping. It reported that sales for the third quarter to end December grew by 6.9%. By the close its shares were up 3.04% to R30.55.

Shares in Cell C’s largest shareholder Blue Label Telecoms  plummeted 13.52% to R2.75, its biggest one-day fall in about 11 months, after it reported that the struggling mobile operator had defaulted on interest payments due to creditors in December and January.

Cell C said it is committed to resolving the situation by agreeing to restructuring terms with its lenders, while also working to improve its liquidity, debt profile and long-term competitiveness, Blue Label’s statement read.

At 5.37pm, the rand was flat at to R14.6012/$, while it had firmed 0.2% to R16.0597/€ and 0.54% to R18.9658/£. The euro was 0.17% lower at $1.10.

Gold was down 0.85% to $1,568.53/oz and platinum 0.24% to $987.95/oz. Brent crude gained 1.6% at $59.84 a barrel.


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