The reception area of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. File picture: Leon Nicholas

Johannesburg - South African stocks ended almost where they started on Monday, as a global stock rally failed to take root in Johannesburg, where gold producers maintained their downward march in the wake of bullion's falling price.

Gold Fields shed 1.8 percent and Harmony 1.7 percent as gold's spot price extended a recent decline, losing 1 percent with markets betting the US Federal Reserve will begin tapering its commodity-boosting monetary stimulus as early as this month.

Johannesburg's Gold Mining Index, which stumbled over 7 percent last week, lost another 1.1 percent to 1,179.43.

The rand also gained over 1 percent against the dollar to its firmest level in five weeks, another setback for domestic gold firms who sell their product in dollars but count most of their costs in the local currency.

“There is not a lot in favour for the gold producers at this time. The rand is not playing along and the gold price is not playing along,” said Abri du Plessis, chief investment officer at Gryphon Asset Management.

On the upside, Famous Brands rose over 1 percent to 99.65 rand after the fast-food restaurant operator said it would buy a stake in a Nigerian fast-food chain to bolster its presence in Africa's most populous country.

Famous Brands said the cash deal for an undisclosed sum would give it 49 percent of the restaurant arm of UAC Nigeria Plc , which operates the popular Mr Bigg's fast-food chain.

Johannesburg's blue-chip Top-40 index was little changed, slipping just 0.03 percent to 39,060.23.

The broader All-share index shed 0.02 percent to 43,594.92.

Both indices are within easy reach of record highs hit on Thursday last week.

Around 130 million shares changed hands, according to preliminary bourse data.

Decliners outnumbered advancers 152 to 145 with 61 shares unchanged. - Reuters