Johannesburg - South African stocks edged higher on Friday, tracking European markets which rose on expectation for more central bank stimulus after weak data from the region.

Data from Germany showed it had unexpectedly contracted in the second quarter as concerns rose that major markets have not yet fully recovered, spurring notions that stimulus could come in to lift the euro zone.

“We mustn't get carried away, nobody is out of the woods yet. Times are still tough globally,” said Ryan Woods, a trader at Independent Securities.

“There are signs of improvement but for the most part it is very difficult out there for a lot of economies and it is not going to change any time soon.”

Johannesburg-listed shares of BHP Billiton rose 2.9 percent to 365.10 rand after the diversified miner said it might spin off part of its business that was not a major contributor to earnings.

The benchmark Top-40 index rose 0.42 percent to 46,112 while the broader All-Share index gained 0.36 percent to 51,257.

Investors largely shrugged off news that Impala Platinum expected full-earnings that would be up to 75 percent lower.

The market has been expecting weaker earnings from platinum mining houses after a five-month strike hit production.

“Impala's trading update wasn't very pretty and that was obviously as a result of the strike. The market is pricing in a lot of bad news,” said Woods.

Higher global equity markets and easing political tensions in Ukraine led the spot gold price lower, as AngloGold Ashanti fell 2 percent and Harmony Gold shed 3.9 percent to 32.55 rand.

Trade was average, with more than 164 million shares changing hands, according to preliminary bourse data. Advancers outnumbered decliners 149 to 134, with 61 stocks unchanged. - Reuters