The JSE. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi.

The JSE closed the Thursday session in negative territory‚ on sharp weakness on Wall Street on Wednesday and contraction in the eurozone economy in the third quarter.

South African gold miner Gold Fields (GFI) being downgraded to junk by Standard & Poor’s on Thursday also added to negative sentiment on the local bourse.

The rating agency said Gold Fields faced increased country risk in light of increasing social and political tensions and its credit ratings were therefore reduced to BB+/B from BBB-/A-3.

Local rand weakness and violence in the agriculture sector in the Western Cape also added to the JSE’s downward trajectory.

At 5pm‚ the all-share index was 0.58% lower at 37‚026.72 points‚ with the top 40 shedding 0.60% to 32‚845.63. Gold miners suffered the most‚ down 2.19%‚ followed by platinum miners‚ which gave up 2.16%. All the major indices closed in the red.

“Gold Fields being downgraded to junk is definitely not a good story with marginal miners being targeted. Anglo American Platinum came out with a trading statement on Wednesday saying that its earnings would be negatively affected by the labour unrest and we are seeing the impact of this coming through today‚” said Devin Shutte‚ market analyst at stockbrokerage Newstrading.

“We saw some buying into retailers and defensive stocks today‚ but it was not keeping our market up with heavy selling seen in the resources space. The rand was weaker due to a risk-off trading environment globally‚” Shutte said.

Gold Fields (GFI) shed 2.29% to close at R103.80 and Anglo American Platinum (AMS) gave up 1.89% to close at R363.02.

Barclays said in its daily global macro report that world markets continued slowly to price in the US fiscal cliff risks and President Obama’s press conference suggested that a significant gap remains between Republicans and Democrats on key issues‚ reducing the likelihood for a compromise in the eyes of the market.

“A cautious view on risky assets remains warranted until cliff risks have been successfully dealt with. Soft economic data in the US and euro area underline market concerns. Retail sales in the US fell more than expected and in the euro area‚ the economic picture continues to be weak‚” the bank said.

Leading European markets were broadly lower‚ with London’s FTSE 100 seen down 0.45% at 4.45pm local time‚ as investors were rattled by the eurozone’s slip back into recession.

Third-quarter gross domestic product for the 17-member eurozone fell 0.1% on the quarter‚ or 0.4% on an annualised basis‚ following a 0.7% annualised decline in the second quarter. Economists generally define a recession as two-consecutive quarters of contraction.

However‚ US stocks managed to creep higher at the market’s open‚ seeking direction after their steep Wednesday decline‚ as investors shrugged off a large jobless-claims jump that was a result of superstorm Sandy‚ Dow Jones Newswires reported.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.07% 4.45pm local time. The Dow slumped 185 points‚ or 1.5%‚ on Wednesday to close at its lowest level since June 26.

Initial claims for jobless benefits in the latest week jumped well more than expected to 439‚000. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expected 375‚000 new claims.

Among local individual shares‚ all the large gold and platinum miners took a beating.

Impala Platinum (IMP) closed 2.21% softer at R139.82‚ Northam Platinum (NHM) gave back 1.80% to R32.13 and Lonmin (LON) shed 2.55% to R62.17.

Harmony (HAR) was the biggest loser in the gold sector‚ dropping 2.8% to R68.12 and AngloGold Ashanti (ANG) lost 2.18% to R274.30.

Media group Naspers (NPN) closed 1.73% lower at R544.98‚ having earlier lost as much as 3.5%‚ after China’s biggest internet company Tencent reported third quarter results on Wednesday that were lower than expectations. Naspers owns 34.5% of Tencent. - I-Net Bridge