Johannesburg - South African share prices edged slightly higher on Thursday as a European Central Bank decision to cut rates buoyed local gold stocks such as AngloGold Ashanti.

The ECB announced a raft of stimulus measures, such as cutting rates and imposing negative rates on its overnight depositors, to boost the eurozone economy.

Spot gold jumped 1 percent after the ECB announcement, helping to push Johannesburg's bullion index 0.7 percent higher.

“We have seen a bit of turnaround in the gold price and that is pushing our gold stocks that were under pressure earlier in the day,” said Martin Lentsoane, a trader at Lehumo Capital.

The All-share index crept 0.08 percent higher to 50,000.43, while the Top-40 index was flat at 44,984.76.

AngloGold Ashanti added nearly 1.2 percent to 169.81 rand.

Smaller rivals Harmony Gold and Gold Fields both rose 0.4 percent.

Lender Transaction Capital was the biggest gainer after adding more than 11 percent to 6.84 rand.

The company announced late on Wednesday that it had raised 665 million rand in a note issue.

Sanlam rose nearly 5 percent to 62.01 rand as the financial services company announced its second acquisition this month.

Sanlam is buying MicroEnsure, a UK-based microinsurance company with 7.6 million customers in Africa and Asia.

African Bank failed to halt a slide to a 10-year low as investors continued to dump the unsecured lender's stock after a ratings downgrade last week.

The price fell 5.6 percent to 7.41 rand, the lowest since early 2004.

The threat of higher interest rates in an environment of an already overburdened borrowers is dampening any prospects for the back to stop its deteriorating non-performing loans.

“I would not be going into African Bank in a rush. There is no reason for me to be in a hurry until the dust has settled,” Lentsoane said.

Some 179 million shares were traded as 165 companies advanced and 139 others weakened. - Reuters