The JSE. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi.

The JSE opened lower on Monday after Asian stock markets started the week on a soft footing on concerns about Europe's sovereign debt crisis.

At 09:17 local time, the JSE all-share index was down 0.08% to 33,676.40 points, with resources easing by 0.04%, platinums down 0.66 and gold shares 0.36% lower.

Banks were 0.33% softer, as were financials (-0.53%), but industrials bucked the trend and were up 0.06%.

The rand was trading at 7.98 to the US dollar, from 7.93 at the JSE's close on Friday. Gold was quoted at US$1,644.58 a troy ounce from US$1,669.11oz at the JSE's previous close, while platinum was at $1,568.50/oz, from $1,595/oz at the previous session.

Dow Jones Newswires reported that Asian stock markets dropped on Monday on growing concerns over rising borrowing costs in Spain, pressuring the euro lower and sending cyclical stocks down across the region.

While the early focus in markets was on China's decision over the weekend to allow the yuan to trade in a wider daily range against the US dollar, the actual impact across regional currencies and equities was negligible.

“So far, there hasn't been much impact from the yuan band widening. Spain is having a bigger impact on Asian trading,” said Frances Cheung, senior strategist at Credit Agricole.

The People's Bank of China said on Saturday that, effective Monday, it would widen the yuan's trading band against the US dollar to 1.0% above and below a daily reference exchange rate from 0.5% previously.

Many traders welcomed the yuan action as a measure of China's confidence in the domestic economy and as an indication of Beijing's commitment to further liberalise the exchange rate regime.

“There appears to be increasing evidence that reform minded leaders are now in the ascendancy in China”, said Sydney-based Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in a note. “The move to allow greater volatility in the currency, following the recent relaxation of restrictions on capital flows fits this scenario,” he said.

China's Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.3%, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index lost 0.6% in early trade. Much of the regional trading reflected continued worries about Europe, especially the rising borrowing costs in Spain. Wall Street's sharp losses on Friday also damped the regional mood.

Japan's Nikkei Stock Average fell 1.5%, Australia's S&P/ASX 200 declined 0.5%, Korea's Kospi dropped 1.0% and New Zealand's NZX-50 eased 0.3%. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were off 21 points in screen trade.

The euro continued to wilt amid the renewed concerns over Spain's debt burden. Asian exporter stocks and financials took a beating amid the general gloom.

Equity markets had a bumpy ride last week, shedding gains on eurozone concerns, but finding some solace on chatter of further policy easing from the US and China.

London's FTSE 100 was up 0.03% to 5,653.54 points local time.

On the JSE, Anglo American (AGL) was up 50 cents to R287.00, BHP Billiton (BIL) gained 35 cents to R239.75, while Sasol (SOL) shed 43 cents to R364.97.

Among gold stocks, AngloGold Ashanti (ANG) gained 17 cents to R267.50, but Gold Fields (GFI) was down 79 cents to R100.70.

Anglo American Platinum (AMS) was down R4.98 to R510.00 and Impala Platinum (IMP) fell 100 cents to R150.00.

Among other miners, ArcelorMittal SA (ACL) was 64 cents higher at R58.34.

Among industrials, Sappi (SAP) was up 74 cents or 2.53% to R29.99. - I-Net Bridge