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

Johannesburg - South African shares followed global stocks lower as market jitters over the state of economic growth resurface, but gold companies were in demand as investors sought a safe haven for their money.

Uncertainty over Iraq and Ukraine, an unexpected decline in euro zone business and consumer confidence data and Thursday's weak US consumer spending have hurt confidence in risky bets such as emerging market assets.

Johannesburg's Top-40 declined 0.3 percent to 45,651.85 and the All-share index shaved a similar margin to 50,625.37, yielding some of the gains made in the previous session.

“We were pricing in moves in global markets from overnight,” said Percy Mathebula, an equities and derivatives trader at Thebe Stockbroking.

“We will go up probably on Monday. The rand will definitely support us and metal prices are also moving positive, that will all factor us in higher.”

Shares of Niveus dropped more than 8 percent to 26.60 rand as the investment company proposed a cash dividend or an option to elect a bonus issue alternative of 1 share for every 76 shares.

The issue is subject to shareholder approval.

The share is up 33 percent so far this year, far outpacing the All-share's 10 percent increase.

African Bank reversed losses made this week and gained 11 percent on short covering, Mathebula said.

Technical factors also stoked its price after some momentum indicators suggested it was oversold.

Gold companies were firm for most of the day but lost some of their muscle late in the session.

AngloGold Ashanti ended 0.8 percent higher and Harmony added 0.9 percent as spot gold prices hovered over a fourth straight week of gains.

Activity was slow with about 140 million shares traded, according to preliminary bourse data.

Advancers were nearly equally matched with decliners. - Reuters