Filomena Scalise

Johannesburg - South African shares booked a record close on Thursday after stocks such as SABMiller pushed prices to the highest level in the bourse's 17-year history.

Johannesburg-listed shares of the global brewer's shares ended up six percent at R395.87, its biggest one-day gain since 2008, after it reported a 12-percent rise in first-half earnings and a higher dividend.

SABMiller, the world's second-largest brewer, says profit was lifted by its acquisition of Australia's Fosters and strong growth in Latin America.

“Earlier on in the session, a lot of the activity stemmed around breweries. That set the tone a little bit and took shares through new highs,” said Mark Wilkes, a senior trader at Global trader.

“I wouldn't expect too much of a backtrack at this stage tomorrow but we'll have to see.”

The Top-40 index closed at a record 33,613.24, up one percent, after earlier touching an all-time high of 33,752.47.

The All-Share index rose 0.92 percent to 37,844.55, also its highest finish on record. It also hit a record high of 37,975.54 earlier in the session.

Gold stocks received a boost from Chinese manufacturing data and hopes that a European bailout deal for Greece may be agreed upon.

South Africa's third-largest gold producer Harmony added 2.6 percent to R71.20, while rival Gold Fields closed 1.7 percent stronger at R106.21.

The bourse shrugged off a Reserve Bank decision to leave its benchmark repo rate unchanged on Thursday.

Voicing concern about above-inflation wage settlements conceded to calm the worst mining unrest since apartheid, the bank reduced its 2012 GDP growth forecast to 2.5 percent from the 2.6 percent anticipated in September and also cut 2013 growth prospects to 2.9 percent.

“Of concern is the fact that they downgraded their growth outlook for next year substantially. That is obviously signalling more than just concerns on the inflationary front,” said Luke Doig, an economist at Credit Guarantee Insurance Corp.

Trade at the bourse was robust with more than 243 million shares exchanging hands. Share prices of 184 companies advanced and those of another 98 fell. - Reuters