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

Johannesburg - South African stocks ended barely changed on Monday as investors juggled better-than-expected earnings results by a major gold miner with valuation worries after two straight sessions of gains that pushed the market to record highs.

Construction firms also featured on the loser board after the City Press newspaper said police were involved in a competition watchdog price-fixing probe.

But gold mining shares restricted the downside the broader index after Harmony Gold beat forecasts with quarterly profit.

The benchmark JSE Top-40 index was flat at 36,225.21, retreating from a record 36,421.32 set earlier in the session. The broader All-share index was off 0.07 percent at 40,571.82 after notching up a record 40,822.08.

“There's a feeling that some of these stocks have run quite hard. I am not surprised to see a bit of profit-taking on some of them,” Ferdi Heyneke, a portfolio manager at Afrifocus Securities, said.

Investment group Remgro, up nearly 4 percent so far this year, gave up 0.6 percent to 164.08 rand and lender Absa was down 1.06 percent at 169.18 after rising by nearly 8 percent year-to-date.

Hit by worries of hefty fines for allegedly fixing prices of building contracts, construction firms were sold off. Wilson Bayly Holmes-Ovcon dropped 5.8 percent to 145.50 rand and Stefanutti Stocks skidded 5.63 percent to 10.05 rand.

On the flipside, Harmony Gold topped the gainers' list, surging 7.7 percent to 61.80 rand, after the country's No.3 gold producer reported an above-expectations 28 percent rise in second quarter profit.

Rival AngloGold Ashanti climbed 2.7 percent to 260 rand and Gold Fields was up 1.9 percent at 108 rand.

Provisional bourse statistics showed a slightly below average 191 million shares were traded, with 149 shares advancing and 181 losing ground while 46 shares were unchanged. - Reuters