The JSE. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi.

The JSE fell at the start of trade on Thursday‚ as lingering euro area debt concerns weighed on global equities.

At 09:20 local time‚ the JSE all-share index was down 0.40% to 33‚900.93 points‚ with resources losing 0.76%‚ gold counters slipping 0.13% and platinums shedding 0.47%.

Financials were flat (-0.07%)‚ while banking stocks were off 0.30% and industrials 0.29% softer.

The rand was trading at 8.39 to the US dollar‚ from 8.36 at the JSE's close on Wednesday‚ while gold was quoted at US$1‚620.94 a troy ounce from US$1‚621.47/oz at the JSE's previous close and platinum was at $1‚480.50/oz‚ from $1‚468.50/oz previously.

“The newsflow out of Europe is still driving sentiment‚” said Ferdi Heyneke‚ portfolio manager at Afrifocus Securities.

Asian markets fell as concerns about the ability of European countries to borrow added to lingering concerns about Greek elections this weekend‚ Dow Jones Newswires reported.

Fears about the health of Spain's financial system were prominent‚ after Moody's Investors Service downgraded Spain by three notches - to Baa3‚ just one level above junk.

The ratings agency said the EUR100 billion ($126 billion) Spanish bank bailout would worsen the government's debt position and that the European country's current reliance on external funding was unsustainable.

Concerns surrounded Italy's debt after it sold one-year treasuries at a yield of 3.97%‚ about double the borrowing costs from a month before. Investors were looking ahead to see the yields on another Italian auction‚ where it will sell longer-term debt‚ later in the global day.

Japan's Nikkei shed 0.22% by its close and the Hang Seng index was down 0.76% at 09:05 local time.

European stock markets started lower with bad news piling up in the eurozone‚ with the London’s FTSE down 0.11% at 09:05 local time.

Kevin Norrish‚ managing director for research at Barclays Capital‚ said in a note the recent volatility in commodity prices was a sign investors were holding a pessimistic outlook for the global economy.

“The message people are getting is that of a pessimistic global outlook‚ due to concerns about the eurozone debt crisis‚ and fears the China economy is in for a hard landing‚ as we have seen in the recent drops in the oil and copper prices‚” Norrish said.

Presenting the London-based investment bank's annual outlook on commodities‚ Norrish however said prices were in for recovery in the second half of the year.

On the JSE‚ Anglo American (AGL) was down R1.19 to R275.81‚ BHP Billiton (BIL) shed R3.15‚ or 1.34%‚ to R231.15 and Sasol (SOL) slipped R1.10 to R359.90.

AngloGold Ashanti (ANG) was down 49 cents to R307.50‚ Gold Fields (GFI) lost 63 cents to R113.30 but Harmony Gold Mining (HAR) lifted 77 cents to R88.68.

In platinum stocks‚ Impala Platinum (IMP) shed R1.42‚ or 1%‚ to R140.27‚ while Northam Platinum (NHM) was up 21 cents to R27.56; Lonmin (LON) was off 87 cents to R94.

In industrials‚ SAB (SA) slipped 99 cents to R321 and Richemont (CFR) shed 51 cents‚ or 1.10%‚ to R45.96.

Among telecoms shares‚ MTN (MTN) shaved off 29 cents to R135.60 but Vodacom (VOD) gained 43 cents to R97.70.

In banks‚ Standard Bank (SBK) lost 61 cents to R115‚ while Absa (ASA) was up 48 cents to R151.68. - I-Net Bridge