Picture: JSE
Picture: JSE

The JSE closed firmer on Thursday, with miners performing best after production figures for the sector in December surprised to the upside.

Global markets were weaker, however, as the number of new cases and deaths from the coronavirus, now known as Covid-19, were reported, denting investor hopes that the outbreak will be contained any time soon.

A weaker rand added to gains in the JSE gold and platinum indices, with higher commodity prices further boosting the two sectors.

Mining production for December grew 1.8% over the previous year, Statistics SA said earlier, while the Bloomberg consensus was for a contraction of 3.5%. Production for all of 2019, however, fell by 1.3%.

The JSE platinum index leapt 4.31% and the gold index 2.54%.

AT 5.52pm, gold had gained 0.68% to $1,576.16/oz and platinum 1.54% to $972.96. Brent crude was 0.37% lower at $56.08 a barrel.

The JSE all share gained 0.16% to 57,835.69 points and the top 40 0.92%. Banks were down 0.50% and financials 0.24%.

Asian and European markets dipped on news that the number of the coronavirus cases is much higher than originally reported, after patients tested using a different diagnostic method were included.

Earlier this week, Chinese officials reported that the spread of the virus had peaked, and might be contained soon. In a Thursday press conference, however, China confirmed more than 15,000 new cases and 254 additional deaths. 

“It seems stock markets are not entirely immune to the effects of Covid-19, but they were putting up quite a fight in the face of more distressing figures on Wednesday,” said Oanda senior analyst Craig Erlam. “[China] adopted a broader definition to include those clinically diagnosed. This unexpected adjustment is a timely reminder of the scale of the disease, just as investors were starting to believe we were turning a corner.” 

Earlier, the Shanghai Composite was down 0.71%, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 0.34% and Japan’s Nikkei 225 0.14%. The Dow was last seen down 0.3% to 29,463.25, while in Europe the FTSE 100 had weakened 1.47%, France’s CAC 40 0.50% and Germany’s DAX 30 0.24%.

At 6.06pm, the rand weakened 0.27% to R14.8946/$, 0.13% to R16.1679/€ and 1.04% to R19.4403/£. The euro was down 0.18% to $1.0851. 

tsobol@businesslive.co.za