THE JSE was on the back foot again on Tuesday, after a brief reprieve on Monday, with resources and banking counters the hardest hit, while platinum and gold stocks managed to close in positive territory, but only just.

Global markets were pulled down on the stalemate in the Italian elections.

At 5pm the local bourse closed 0.55% lower at 39,568.28 points, with the top 40 dipping 0.92%.

The resource and banking indices gave back 1.02% and 0.92% respectively, while platinums added 0.15% and the gold index was up a marginal 0.05%.

Major European markets all lost value on the instability in Italy, with London’s FTSE down 1.19% at 5pm. US stocks bucked the trend, however, with the Dow opening higher, following their biggest daily tumble of the year, as investors awaited the Federal Reserve chairman’s testimony to Congress. At 5pm the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 0.60% firmer.

Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke will give his semi-annual testimony on monetary policy to the Senate banking committee later on Tuesday.

Investors were watching for signs of when the Federal Reserve might wind down stimulus efforts, after policy meeting minutes released last week showed some officials were uneasy about efforts to support the economy, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

"On the local front, resource counters have been hard hit of late after weaker-than-expected earnings coming through, and a global risk-off environment creeping in, pulling the broader market down further today," Mohammed Nalla, head of strategic research at Nedbank Capital, said.

"The uncertainty around the Italian election has added to the global risk-off environment. The gold price has been stabilising after recently shedding $40 of its value — we are seeing a rationalisation now with safe-haven demand providing a fillip," he said.

At 5pm, bullion was quoted at $1,591 an ounce from Monday’s $1,594/oz and the platinum price was up slightly at $1,610/oz.

On the JSE, Anglo American shed 1.72% to R262.36 and rival BHP Billiton gave back 1.18% to R280.90.

Bidvest dropped 2.67% to R239.20 and Compagnie Richemont declined 1.09% to R69.89.

Diversified miner African Rainbow Minerals closed 2.32% softer at R188.51 after reporting on Tuesday a decline in its headline earnings per share in the six months to December to 654c‚ from 937c in the previous similar period.

Explosives manufacturer AECI Limited soared 5.10% to close at R94.05 after reporting a 21% decline in headline earnings for the year ended December from R772m to R611m. Profit from operations of R1.341bn was up 2% on the R1.316bn achieved in the prior year.

Banking counter FirstRand slipped 1.40% to R30.30.