Johannesburg - South African stocks snapped two straight days of gains on Wednesday, with the rally grinding to a halt on the start of a strike in the country's gold mines and renewed concern over the violence in Syria.
Africa's top bullion producer AngloGold Ashanti was the biggest blue-chip loser, shedding 3.91 percent to 135.20 rand as bullion's spot price fell almost 2 percent.
Rival Gold Fields lost 0.66 percent.
But there were bright spots in the sector with Harmony Gold rising over 3 percent as investors found value in the shares, which have lost about 57 percent in the year to date - the biggest fall among South Africa's major bullion producers.
Johannesburg's blue-chip Top-40 index fell 0.9 percent to 38,166.67.
The broader All-share index eased 0.86 percent to 42,522.80.
The strike by tens of thousands of gold miners launched Tuesday night was seen as eroding investor confidence in Africa's largest economy, which was hit by credit ratings downgrades in the past year, triggered in part by simmering labour unrest.
“The gold strikes are not at all good for sentiment. This is all you see in the international news about South Africa at the moment,” said Abri du Plessis, chief investment officer at Gryphon Asset Management.
“But on a day like today, we are much more driven by international sentiment. Syria is the main story and this is why our big stocks are getting smashed,” he said.
Global shares faltered as military strikes on Syria moved a step closer after Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled a readiness to drop his opposition if Damascus were proven to have carried out a chemical weapons attack.
South Africa's bourse, which scaled record peaks last month, has been mirroring global markets in recent weeks.
Domestic fundamentals are hardly rosy, with the gold stoppage inflicting more damage on an economy already beset by strikes in other sectors such as auto making.
Trade was relatively subdued, with 143.5 million shares changing hands, according to preliminary bourse data. Decliners outnumbered advancers 195 to 95 with 52 shares unchanged. - Reuters