Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

The JSE must contend with weaker Asian markets on Thursday morning, as investors consider a surge in the number of coronavirus cases as a result of a change in how infections and deaths are reported in China. A weaker rand and higher precious metal prices could support miners a little, however, and Tencent was up more than 1% in Hong Kong.

The death toll in China’s central Hubei province from a coronavirus outbreak leapt by a record 242 on Thursday, taking the total number of deaths in the province so far to 1,310, Reuters reported. Hopes that the coronavirus has peaked has helped buoy stocks recently, with US markets closing at a record high on Wednesday.

The reaction to the headlines show how sensitive the market remains to the issue, said AxiCorp chief market strategist Stephen Innes in a note. In morning trade the Shanghai Composite was down 0.53% while the Hang Seng had given up 0.14%. Tencent was up 1.12%, which could help support the local bourse, as market heavyweight Naspers is the largest shareholder of the Chinese tech giant.

Gold was 0.41% to $1,572.42/oz while platinum had risen 0.8% to $966.12. Brent crude was down 0.76% to $55.86 a barrel. The rand was 0.21% weaker at R14.88/$.

The local focus on Thursday is on the state of the nation address (Sona) this evening, which is widely expected to set the tone for the budget announcement later in February.

Mining data for December is also due, and economists expect a sharp contraction in the month that SA experienced severe load-shedding.

Italtile is expected to release earnings for its six months to end-December later, having said recently it will report muted profit growth due to a subdued consumer environment.