File image: Reuters

Shares of South African gold miners rise, as investors bet that underperformers such as Harmony Gold may have fallen too far during the recent slide in the price of bullion.

Harmony Gold, the country's third largest producer, surges 4.3 percent to 80.42 rand. As of Wednesday's close, the company was the worst performing share on the blue-chip Top-40 index this year, down nearly 17 percent.

It is currently trading at a price-to-earnings ratio of around 16, putting it at its cheapest level in about 2 years, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Bigger rival Gold Fields, which was down 15 percent year-to-date as of Wednesday's close, adds 4.6 percent to 109.49. The company is near its lowest price-to-earnings ratio in about four years.

“It looks like people are bottom picking in case the goal posts move again. In the long-term the fundamentals are still in place for the gold price,” says SBG Securities mining analyst David Davis, pointing to mounting market jitters over the Greek election next month, which could hasten the country's exit from the euro zone, and lingering concerns over US debt.

Such scenarios could bolster the gold price. A recent bout of rand weakness is also boosting local gold producers as it lifts bullion's price in the domestic currency. - Reuters