The JSE. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi.

The JSE was trading firmer at noon‚ up 0‚5%‚ on the back of a fairly positive overnight performance on Wall Street.

The industrial sector was the best performer‚ but the gold and platinum sectors were lagging.

“The big drivers were some decent US housing starts figures and a slew of corporate reports which were well received. There was an uptick in our markets‚ but volumes are not fantastic‚ in line with global volumes which are also not great‚” said Ryan Wibberley‚ equity dealer at Investec Asset Management in Cape Town.

“Gold stocks were drifting on low volumes. Angloplat disappointed the market with its trading update‚ but everyone knew that update was going to be disappointing.

“There is a small chance of a 50 basis point drop in interest rates at 3pm this afternoon‚ but the market consensus is no rate cut‚” he said.

At 12:02 local time‚ the JSE all-share index was up 0.47% to 34‚194.14 points‚ with resources adding 0.28%‚ platinum shares shedding 0.23% and gold counters dipping 0.19%.

Financials edged up 0.28%‚ banking stocks added 0.19% and industrials were up 0.68%.

The rand was at 8.15 to the US dollar‚ from 8.16 at the JSE’s close on Wednesday‚ while gold changed hands at US$1‚582.72 a troy ounce from US$1‚576.15/oz at the JSE’s previous close and platinum was quoted at $1‚418.50/oz‚ from $1‚411.70/oz previously.

European stocks nudged higher on a number of forecast-beating results on Thursday‚ while the dollar was sold off against a number of major currencies as investors continued to expect that central banks would take the path of further easing to help boost flagging economies.

Dow Jones Newswires reported that the FTSE 100 traded slightly higher at noon‚ but was paring gains‚ as growth in UK retail sales slowed to a near halt in June‚ coming in below expectations.

“The small rise in UK retail sales volumes suggests that the Queen’s Jubilee provided only a negligible fillip to spending‚” said Capital Economics.

Spain also weighed on sentiment as the country’s funding costs surged at an auction. Spanish bond yields have climbed post-auction‚ with the 10-year now up eight basis points at 6.98%.

At 11:47 local time‚ the FTSE was trading up 0.21% at 5‚697.91 points.

Asian stocks once again took their cue from the US‚ where the earnings season continued overnight with strong profits coming out of major technology companies and at the forefront of the gain was chip maker Intel.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed 0.8% higher at 12‚908.70 points on Wednesday.

US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke was in the spotlight again as he gave another day of testimony to legislators on Capitol Hill‚ where he said it was “certainly possible” the central bank could take new steps to support the economy if the job market failed to pick up.

The strong performance of tech companies in the US had a knock-on effect on their peers in Japan‚ where electronic technology led gains.

Japan's Nikkei average closed up 0.79 at 8‚795.55‚ while the Hang Seng index closed 1.66% firmer at 19‚559.05 points.

On the JSE‚ Anglo American (AGL) was down R1.15 to R259.76‚ while BHP Billiton (BIL) gained R2.61‚ or 1.12%‚ to R234.80 and Sasol (SOL) added 82 cents to R352.05.

AngloGold Ashanti (ANG) was down R1 to R255 and Gold Fields (GFI) shed 7 cents to R97.46.

In platinum stocks‚ Amplats (AMS) was down R8.00‚ or 1.86%‚ to R422.

The platinum producer said late on Wednesday that its headline earnings per share in the six months ended June 2012 would fall to between 270 cents and 280 cents‚ compared with 1‚276 cents for the same period a year ago. The expected drop in earnings is primarily due to lower sales volumes and lower realised prices during the first half of 2012.

Lonmin (LON) was up R1.25‚ or 1.38%‚ to R91.95.

Among other miners‚ Exxaro (EXX) gained R2.83‚ or 1.64%‚ to R175.15‚ while Assore (ASR) lost R2.08 to R282.40.

In industrials‚ Richemont (CFR) was up 146 cents‚ or 3.34%‚ to R45.17.

Among telecoms‚ Vodacom (VOD) gained R1.34 or 1.49%‚ to R91.39. The cellular provider said on Thursday that customer numbers rose 29.2% to 50 million and the group’s service revenue growth had been boosted by performance in key growth areas. Group service revenue growth was 8.7% and group revenue was up 9.3%‚ driven by strong growth in international mobile operations and data‚ up 64.5% and 16.6% respectively. - I-Net Bridge