The JSE. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi.

South African stocks edged down from recent record highs on Friday, as investor sold shares of platinum miners following days of violent labour unrest at Lonmin Plc's operations.

But defensive stocks and big dividend payers found favour with investors grappling for value in a low interest rate environment.

“There's a constant search for a yield pickup in this market, rates are exceptionally low and also for foreigners. So our high dividend yielding stocks remain appetising, as long it is under-pinned by good earnings,” said Bernhard Grobler, head of stockbroking at Investec.

The benchmark Top-40 index closed 0.51 percent lower at 31,376.13, while the broader All-share index lost 0.55 percent to 35,547.33.

Both indexes hit record closing highs in the previous session.

Platinum miners continued to take a beating from violent union protests at Lonmin that left over 30 dead.

After sharp selling most of the day, shares of Lonmin rallied back to finish down 0.5 percent at 83.30 rand. Share of the company are down nearly 13 percent for the week.

Other platinum miners were also hit, with Anglo American Platinum dropping 2.8 percent to 414 rand.

Among gainers, shares of diversified miner, Exxaro Resources added 1.6 percent to 179 rand while paper maker Mondi Plc gained 1.3 percent to 74.41 rand.

Trade volume were higher, with 142 million shares changing hands, according to latest bourse statistics, compared with last year's daily average of 225 million shares.

Decliners outnumbered advancers at 158 to 137. A total of 52 stocks were unchanged. - Reuters