The JSE. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi.

The JSE opened relatively firmer on Wednesday, in line with main global benchmark stock market indices, with the key focus of investor attention today on the US Federal Reserve meeting.

At 09:17 local time, the JSE all-share index was up 0.23% to 33,899.13 points, with resources adding 0.43%, platinum shares edging up 0.16% and gold counters firming 0.62%.

Financials were up 0.33%, banking stocks improved 0.24%, while industrials were flat (0.08%).

The rand was firmer at 7.78 to the US dollar, from 7.79 at the JSE's close on Tuesday. Gold was quoted at US$1,643.85 a troy ounce from US$1,642.55/oz at the JSE's previous close, while platinum was at $1,549.50/oz, from $1,548.50/oz at the previous session.

“I don't think there will necessarily be a change in the US Fed policy stance on interest rates. But the commentary will be closely watched by the markets in light of the possible additional stimulus measures,” said Ferdi Heyneke, portfolio manager at Afrifocus. “In the meantime, we are seeing some bottom fishing bargain hunting in the mining shares although there isn't a strong conviction.”

In Asia, stock markets were largely higher on Wednesday, led by sharp gains for technology shares after Apple's strong second-quarter earnings, although some caution prevailed ahead of the US Fed meeting, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

Japan's Nikkei Stock Average rose 0.98% but Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slipped 0.09%.

European stocks also opened higher, with London's FTSE 100 index gaining 0.33%.

“Ahead of the Federal Open Market Committee outcome today trading is likely to be relatively restrained, with the risk rally struggling to make much headway,” said Credit Agricole Corporate & Investment Bank.

On the JSE, Anglo American (AGL) was up R1.89 to R292.50, BHP Billiton (BIL) lifted 68 cents to R240.93 and Sasol (SOL) gained R1.80 to R365.

Among gold stocks, AngloGold Ashanti (ANG) added R1.89 to R257.39 while Gold Fields (GFI) added 54 cents to R97.54 and Harmony (HAR) climbed 33 cents to R73.55.

Anglo American Platinum (AMS) was up 80 cents to R492.39 and Northam Platinum (NHM) gained 59 cents, or 1.86%, to R32.25.

In industrials, British American Tobacco (BTI) lost R3.49 to R393.50 and AECI (AFE) shed R1.40, or 1.53%, to R90.

Capital Shopping Centres Group Plc (CSO) lifted 43 cents, or 1.06%, to R40.94. Occupancy rates at the UK-based company's shopping centres stand at 94.3%, down 2.4% from the end of December 2011 due to post Christmas tenant administrations and expiry of seasonal lettings.

Releasing its interim management statement for the period January 1 to April 25, the company noted that 27 new stores had opened in its shopping centres since January. Chief executive David Fischel said the group continued to attract leading retailers to its prime regional centres.

Allied Technologies (Altech, ALT) was unchanged at R52.25. The technology group posted a 30% decline in headline earnings per share for the year ended February 2012 to 337 cents from 481 cents a year ago. Diluted adjusted HEPS were down 28% to 377 cents.

Revenue rose to R9.97 billion from R9.65 billion while operating profit before capital items declined to R649 million from R787 million.

A dividend of 248 cents per share was declared - 210.8 cents net of dividend withholding tax - from 356 cents a year ago. - I-Net Bridge