Johannesburg - South African shares barely closed in the black on Wednesday as investors awaited the outcome of the latest round of negotiations to end the country's longest-running platinum sector strike.
Newly installed mining minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi said he hoped the five-month stalemate between miners and their employers could end this week, but even his optimism failed to lift prices for producers Impala and Lonmin.
“People are just waiting for what is coming with the miners. There is talk that government is going to be jumping in and you've got wage offer from government at the moment,” said Brandon Sacks, a trade at Avior Research.
The market was also watching for signs of some form of monetary stimulus from the European Central Bank meeting on Thursday in response to the region's low inflation and sluggish growth, he said.
The Top-40 index was up 0.02 percent to 44,985.86 and the All-share added 0.05 percent to 49,960.21.
South African stocks are on the cusp of breaking life records even after hitting a series of new highs this year.
With a price earnings ratio of 18.12 times, the blue-chip index is considered expensive by some investors.
However, companies are still growing and producing strong earnings, justifying the high valuations, some analysts say.
Impala Platinum lost nearly 2 percent to 112.75 rand and Lonmin shed 1.6 percent to 45.65 rand.
African Bank continued its downward spiral, falling more than 4 percent, bring losses this year to 35 percent.
The unsecured lender known as Abil has been bedevilled with high non-performing loans that have pushed it into losses.
A ratings' agency downgrade last week has also added to its woes.
“Abil are not making wise business decisions and there is no trust in management at the moment. It is cheap at the moment but I wouldn't advice my clients to buy it,” Sacks said.
Activity at the bourse was relatively robust with some 154 million shares traded.
A total 154 companies advanced while another 145 declined. - Reuters