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

Johannesburg - South African stocks ended largely flat on Friday, recovering earlier losses after better-than-expected US economic data, with mobile phone operator MTN Group leading the risers.

US nonfarm productivity rebounded more strongly than expected in the second quarter, putting a lid on wage pressures and giving the Federal Reserve room to keep interest rates low for the time being.

The market ended mixed after falling two sessions on the trot, with the benchmark Top-40 index adding 0.06 percent to 45,561 while the wider All-share index shaved off 0.01 percent as African Bank continued its spectacular fall.

Wireless carrier MTN Group lead advancers, extending gains from the previous day when it reported a 9 percent rise in first-half profit, as strong demand for its high-margin data services offset slow voice growth at home.

MTN added 3.9 percent to 232.35 rand, making it the best performer among blue chips.

MTN said on Thursday its earnings were helped by favourable currency moves and a strong uptake of new users in its biggest market, Nigeria.

African Bank Investments maintained a slide triggered on Wednesday when warned it needed to raise R8.5 billion after flagging an annual loss and the departure of its chief executive.

Abil, as the low-income lender is known, fell 38 percent to 31 cents.

It briefly touched a record low of 20 cents in the previous session.

The Johannesburg market had been down for most of the day but after the release of the US data at 14:30 SA time, both indices climbed into positive territory before ending flat.

The US numbers showed productivity increased at a 2.5 percent annual rate after contracting at a revised 4.5 percent pace in the first quarter. - Reuters