Picture: MICHAEL ETTERSHANK
Picture: MICHAEL ETTERSHANK

SURGING gold and platinum shares resulted in the JSE all share closing at its highest level so far this year on Thursday, ahead of crucial US data set to be released on Friday.

The Federal Reserve will closely watch Friday’s nonfarm payroll report as it contemplates the course for US interest rates this year.

Recent softer US economic data contributed to expectations that the Fed would not raise interest rates anytime soon, spurring risk-on sentiment.

A softer dollar buoyed oil and commodity prices on the day, but Brent crude pared much of its gains by the early evening.

Possible further stimulus steps by the European Central Bank (ECB) also supported positive sentiment.

Commodity prices were higher, with the spot price of gold gaining 1.06% on the day to $1,154.45 per fine ounce by the JSE’s close, its best level in more than three months. Platinum hit its best 2016 level, with the spot price up 2.21% to $901.42 per ounce.

Barclays Research said markets experienced positive risk sentiment and further dollar capitulation on Thursday.

"We now expect the ECB to tackle a worse-than-expected inflation outlook with additional monetary easing in March, followed by another later in the year," Barclays said.

The Dow Jones industrial average was 0.16% down at the JSE’s close. The FTSE 100 was up 0.55%, but the CAC 40 had lost 0.48%. The Dax was 1.09% lower.

At 5pm, the all share closed 2.25% higher at 49,627.50 points and the blue-chip top 40 was up 1.94%.

The all share’s previous highest level in 2016 was on January 5, when it closed at 49,599.70 points.

Platinum miners led the gainers on the day, surging 15.40%, followed by gold miners, adding 10.13%. Resources were up 7.67%, banks lifted 4.92% and financials were 2.68% stronger. Industrials added 0.76%.

Novare Investments macro research head Francois van der Merwe said concern over China seemed to have been overdone given that economic data signalled a stabilisation in growth, rather than an abrupt slowdown.

Lower oil prices did not mean a looming recession was ahead. "It rather reflects excessive levels of supply."

Global economic activity would slowly improve, led by the US and Europe and stability in China. Global equities were likely to recover from current oversold levels and provide decent returns.

"With domestic equities rand hedges will benefit from currency weakness. Those companies that are dependent on domestic growth for earnings will, however, struggle in the current environment," Mr van der Merwe said.

Among individual shares on the JSE, Anglo American shot up 17.10% to R74.10 and rival BHP Billiton leapt 8.29% to R162.97.

Exxaro Resources jumped 18.78% higher to R72.04 and Kumba Iron Ore lifted 10.91% to R48.80.

Sasol added 5.73% to R422.47 amid firmer oil prices. At the JSE’s close the Brent crude price was 0.2% up at $35.46 a barrel.

Among gold stocks, Harmony closed 9.49% up at R36.12. The company said on Thursday it managed to stem losses in the first half of the 2016 fiscal year.

Shares in South32 climbed 11.62% to R12.39 after the miner announced on Thursday major restructuring plans for its South African manganese division, which included laying off 620 employees.

Platinum counter Anglo American Platinum soared 19.62% to R273.94. Impala rose 18.75% to R38 and Lonmin leapt 16.89% to R12.87.

Among banks FirstRand was 6.02% higher at R44.40.

In the retail sector Shoprite closed 5.33% up at R147.99.

Growthpoint rose 2.86% to R23.40. The property index ended the day 2.18% higher.