19/04/2010 A generic pic of the JSE board at Sandton JHB. Photo: Leon Nicholas

The JSE was off the session's lows at noon on Friday, with the weaker rand keeping losses on the local exchange in check, against global negative investor sentiment.

At 12:01 local time, the JSE all-share index was down 0.21% to 33,797.81 points, with resources losing 1.07%, platinum miners dropping 0.73% and gold counters shedding 0.65%.

Financials were flat (0.05%), while banking stocks were off 0.26% and industrials lifted 0.25%.

The rand weakened to 8.08 to the US dollar, from 8.00 at the JSE's close on Thursday, while gold was quoted at US$1,581.85 a troy ounce from US$1,596.21/oz at the JSE's previous close and platinum was at $1,467.70/oz, from $1,492.20/oz at the previous session.

The rand weakness has provided some cushioning to the all-share index, supporting defensive shares such as British American Tobacco and SAB,” said Rob Towell, senior equities trader at Consilium Securities. “Rand weakness also kept losses in the resources sector in check, especially after the weak factory production out of China.”

Asian markets ended lower after disappointing China economic data added to worries over a slowdown in the world's second-largest economy, while banking shares dropped after JP Morgan reported a $2 billion trading loss in the past six weeks, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

JPMorgan's chief executive said the bank could face an additional $1 billion in second-quarter losses due to market volatility. The losses stemmed from derivatives bets gone wrong in the bank's Chief Investment Office, part of the corporate branch of the bank that manages risk for the company.

Japan's Nikkei was down 0.63% while China Shanghai SE Composite fell 0.6%.

European stocks were also weaker, spooked by the JP Morgan news, prompting investors to cut exposure to equities, particularly banking stocks.

At the same time, caution persists ahead of further political developments in Greece and Spain's announcement of banking reforms.

The UK's FTSE 100 index was down 0.39% 5,522.40 at about noon local time.

On the JSE, Anglo American (AGL) lost R3.51, or 1.24%, to R279.50, BHP Billiton (BIL) shed R4.44, or 1.83%, to R238.50 but Sasol (SOL) recovered R1.45 to R363.45.

AngloGold Ashanti (ANG) slipped R2.05 to R269.95, Gold Fields (GFI) dipped 50 cents to R105.50 and Harmony Gold Mining (HAR) inched down 16 cents to R76.99.

Impala Platinum (IMP) dipped R1.58, or 1.09%, to R143.27, Lonmin (LON) dropped R3.23, or 2.62%, to R119.85 and Northam Platinum (NHM) was down R1.07, or 3.40%, to R30.43. The platinum producer announced that smelting operations at the Zondereinde mine in Limpopo province were suspended on Thursday.

Among other miners, Kumba Iron Ore (KIO) eased off R4.74 to R522.26. The North Gauteng High Court has granted both the Department of Mineral Resources and Imperial Crown Trading (ICT) leave to appeal against its previous judgment regarding disputed mineral rights at Sishen, the mine in which Kumba has an interest.

In industrials, SAB (SAB) was up R3.29, or 1.03%, to R323.44.

Old Mutual plc (OML) rallied 22 cents, or 1.14%, to R19.50 due to its strong first quarter results the previous day. - I-Net Bridge