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3h ago

Nasdaq drops 4%, S&P 500 falls 3.4% in US stocks rout

Wall Street stocks plunged in midday trading Monday as a multi-session selloff fueled by fears of geopolitical tensions and tighter Federal Reserve policy continued.

At 1651 GMT, the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index had lost four percent to 13,213.98, while the broad-based S&P 500 fell 3.4 percent to 13,213.98.

The benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 2.7 percent 33,345.73.

-AFP

4h ago

Seller challenges Sibanye's move to scrap R15bn deal to buy mines after wall collapse

Sibanye-Stillwater’s move to cancel its $1 billion (R15.3 billion) acquisition of nickel and copper mines in Brazil was challenged by the seller, which said there was no legal basis to terminate the deal.

The purchase was part of Sibanye’s drive to join the rush into metals that are key to powering electric vehicles and the wider green revolution. Sibanye said it terminated the deal after a material “geotechnical event” at the Santa Rita nickel mine. The assets are held by affiliates of funds advised by Appian Capital Advisory LLP, which disputes Sibanye’s interpretation. Appian said there was a localized fracture at Santa Rita, which wasn’t a “material adverse event” and occurs in the normal course of open pit operations.

“Appian is currently assessing all of its legal options and will take all necessary action to enforce its legal rights,” it said.

Sibanye shares extended losses after the statement from Appian, dropping as much as 8.6% in Johannesburg trading.

- BLOOMBERG

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6h ago

JSE down 3% on Ukraine tensions, Wall Street selloff

Global stock markets mostly sank on Monday, hit by fears over simmering Ukraine tensions - and a painful pre-weekend selloff on Wall Street.

Asian indices mainly fell with investors' focus on the Federal Reserve's next policy meeting this week, where officials are expected to unveil their US interest-rate plans to battle soaring inflation.

Bitcoin continued to struggle, having hit a six-month low at the weekend.

The JSE's All Share Index was down almost 3% to 72 794 points, with Kumba down 7%. 

The rand was half a percent weaker at R15.29/$.

London stocks slumped by 1.2 percent at midday, while Frankfurt and Paris each shed 1.8 percent in early afternoon eurozone trade.

Economic growth in the eurozone and UK slowed sharply in January, key surveys showed Monday, as the Omicron variant hit consumer spending.

Geopolitical concerns surrounding Russia's military build-up on the Ukraine border also weighed on traders' minds.

"Ukraine conflict concerns, inflation worries and Covid woes hang over financial markets," said Hargreaves Lansdown analyst, Susannah Streeter.

"The threat of conflict breaking out on the doorstep is hanging over European indices, as hopes begin to fade that there will be fresh meaningful moves from diplomats."

Tensions have soared over Russia's deployment of some 100,000 troops and heavy armour at Ukraine's borders, despite the Kremlin's insistence it is not planning a new incursion.

It comes as the European Union draws up an emergency 1.2-billion-euro aid package for Ukraine.

Wall Street tumbled again Friday following a plunge in Netflix shares that sent the Nasdaq further into correction territory, spurring questions of just how far the market will fall.

Tech firms - which soared on the back of the pandemic - led the retreat in New York after weak subscriber figures from Netflix fuelled concerns that the end of lockdowns and reopening of economies is seeing consumers changing their spending habits.

That comes as traders contemplate the end of the ultra-loose monetary policies put in place by central banks in early 2020 to cushion the impact of Covid-19 containment measures, with the Fed expected to start lifting interest rates from March.

Minutes from the Fed's December gathering indicated officials were turning more hawkish as they grow increasingly concerned about inflation, which is sitting at a four-decade high.

Commentators have tipped the first increase in borrowing costs in March followed by another three hikes before the end of the year, while the central bank is also forecast to start running down its vast bond holdings that have helped keep rates down.

The prospect of tighter policy has battered markets in recent weeks, with the Nasdaq in New York down about 15 percent from its recent peak - tech firms are considered more susceptible to higher rates.

The S&P 500 is down more than eight percent from a record high touched at the start of the month.

Oil prices steadied Monday on optimism that demand will improve as countries reopen and the Omicron variant shows signs it may be peaking.

- AFP

7h ago

Bitcoin tumbles to six-month low

The selloff in cryptocurrencies gained momentum on Monday, with Bitcoin tumbling to a six-month low and other digital tokens seeing even bigger losses. Bitcoin sank as much as 6.6% and fell below the $34 000 mark, continuing a six-day downturn. Ether retreated 7.6% and touched $2 201, also the lowest since July.  

Across the crypto spectrum, markets were in a sea of red with Solana’s SOL and Cardano’s ADA plummeting 19% and 13%, respectively, according to data compiled by CoinGecko.  

Crypto has come under widespread selling pressure in recent days, with traders pointing to hawkish signals from the Federal Reserve and a selloff in technology shares as reasons for traders to withdraw from risky assets.

Since its all-time high in November, Bitcoin has tumbled more than 50%. “We don’t think it is a bad thing if market volatility takes some of the air out of the more speculative corners of the market,” said strategists led by Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management.  

The 40-day correlation coefficient for the digital token and the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 has reached almost 0.66, the most in data compiled by Bloomberg since 2010. A similar correlation with the S&P 500 is at a record too.

Cryptocurrency-exposed stocks tumbled in premarket trading. MicroStrategy Inc. slumped about 12%, while Bitcoin miners Marathon Digital Holdings and Riot Blockchain dropped similar amounts. Chris Weston, head of research with Pepperstone Financial, said the sector is “grossly oversold but momentum is to the downside and rallies are likely to be sold.”

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11h ago

High commodity prices and strong production a boon for South32  

South32 grew operating margins across the group for the six months ended in December, thanks to high commodity prices and strong production results.

In South Africa, the diversified global miner increased manganese production by 7% and saw higher output of premium material while ore sales jumped 9%.

At the Hillside Aluminium smelter in Richards Bay, and despite load shedding, production decreased by just 1% as the smelter continued to test its maximum technical capacity.

Despite logistical challenges, the smelter maintained sales volumes amid record prices.

South32 has also completed a feasibility study and approved the execution of an energy efficiency project at the smelter.

In Mozambique,  South32’s Mozal Aluminium increased production by 1% as an energy efficiency project there offset the impact of load shedding.  

Lisa Steyn

15h ago

Asian stocks sink following painful Wall Street sell-off, poor Netflix data

Equities sank in Asian trade Monday following another painful sell-off on Wall Street, with investors' focus on the Federal Reserve's next policy meeting this week, where officials are expected to unveil their plans to battle soaring inflation.

Tech firms -- which soared on the back of the pandemic -- led the retreat in New York after weak subscriber figures from Netflix fuelled concerns that the end of lockdowns and reopening of economies is seeing consumers changing their spending habits.

That comes as traders contemplate the end of the ultra-loose monetary policies put in place by central banks in early 2020 to cushion the impact of the Covid containment measures, with the Fed expected to start lifting interest rates from March.

Minutes from the Fed's December gathering indicated officials were turning more hawkish as they grow increasingly concerned about inflation, which is sitting at a four-decade high.

Commentators have tipped the first increase in borrowing costs in March followed by another three hikes before the end of the year, while the central bank is also forecast to start running down its vast bond-holdings that have helped keep rates down.

Economists at Goldman Sachs said at the weekend they saw increases in March, June, September and December, with July as the start of the Fed's balance sheet reduction but warned inflation pressures meant "risks are tilted somewhat to the upside of our baseline".

They also said they were concerned the virus would continue to cause supply-demand imbalances while strong wage growth was also a worry, suggesting inflation would remain an ongoing problem.

"We see a risk that the (policy board) will want to take some tightening action at every meeting until that picture changes," the economists said.

"This raises the possibility of a hike or an earlier balance sheet announcement in May, and of more than four hikes this year."

The prospect of tighter policy has battered markets in recent weeks, with the Nasdaq in New York down about 15 percent from its recent peak -- tech firms are considered more susceptible to higher rates.

The S&P 500 is down more than eight percent from a record high touched at the start of the month, and observers said it could see even more losses in coming weeks.

The selling filtered through to Asia, with Hong Kong and Seoul each down more than one percent, while Tokyo, Shanghai, Sydney, Singapore, Wellington, Taipei, Manila and Jakarta were also deep in the red.

Still, oil prices rallied on optimism that demand will improve as countries reopen and the Omicron variant shows signs it may be peaking, allowing people to travel more freely and providing a boost to consumption.

"Physical market demand is strong, as is optimism over Covid turning endemic," Vandana Hari, of Vanda Insights, said.

"Oil's narrative remains bullish, pointing to continued strength in prices interrupted by mild pullbacks."

AFP

21 January 15:32

JSE down 2% as shockwaves hit global markets 

Stock markets sank Friday, with sentiment rattled by fresh Wall Street losses and US tech-sector woes, while oil prices and bitcoin also dipped before the weekend as investors sought safety, dealers said.

The JSE's All-Share Index lost 2%, with Richemont, Anglo Platinum and Anglo - all down almost 4% - among the worst affected.

London equities slid 1.1 percent just after midday in the British capital, while Frankfurt and Paris dived 1.8 percent and 1.6 percent respectively in early afternoon eurozone deals.

New York slumped once more Thursday on the prospect of several US Federal Reserve interest rate hikes this year, while Asia mostly languished in the red ahead of the weekend.

Oil prices retreated from recent seven-year highs on news of rising US crude inventories, which indicates weaker demand in the world's top consumer.Bitcoin fell below $39,000, sitting far below last November's record of almost $69,000.

Global shockwaves

Risk-off sentiment and a sell-off on Wall Street are sending shockwaves across global markets," said Interactive Investor Victoria Scholar.Sentiment took another knock as US entertainment streaming giant Netflix reported cooling 2021 subscriber growth in after-hours results, having boomed during Covid lockdowns on surging demand from home-bound consumers.

The news came after Peloton's shares tumbled Thursday on a report that the US fitness firm planned to suspend production of bikes and treadmills on falling consumer demand.US tech firms also remain under pressure because dealers argue they are more susceptible to higher borrowing costs than many other companies.

"Tech carnage continues (and) stock markets continue downwards spiral," noted Markets.com analyst Neil Wilson.

He warned that "wild swings are catching many offside", noting there was a "broad mood against pandemic bubble winners" like Netflix and Peloton.

Angst about the Fed's determination to fight surging inflation by removing its ultra-loose monetary policy is dealing a severe blow to the rally in global markets that has run virtually uninterrupted for nearly two years, leaving most markets in the red at the start of 2022.

Officials have started tapering the massive bond-buying put in place at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and it is widely expected they will start lifting borrowing costs from March, though by how much is a matter of speculation.

The Fed has also said it will begin offloading the bonds it already has on its books, which have been key in helping keep rates low, though it is not clear how quickly it will do that.

Markets are now awaiting the Fed board's meeting next week, hoping it will provide a clear idea about its timetable for policy normalisation.

Traders are also keeping a nervous eye on Ukraine, where Russia's troop build-up is fanning fears Moscow is planning an invasion.

- AFP

21 January 12:26

The Foschini Group sees strong sales – except for cosmetics, cellphones due to shortages

The Foschini Group, which also owns retailers like Markham, Jet, @home, American Swiss, Sterns and Totalsports, reported turnover growth of 17.3% over the quarter to end-December, compared to the same period in 2020.

Its share price jumped almost 6% to R137.85 on Friday morning, following the update.

For the nine months to December, its clothing turnover across its African business (including South Africa) was 44% higher than in 2020. Homeware sales rose 33%, while jewellery was up 27%.

The group says turnover over the local festive period exceeded expectations. Its turnover in December was up 23% compared to the same month in 2020.

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21 January 12:25

Bitcoin tumbles below $40 000 to lowest level in five months

Cryptocurrencies sank Friday, taking Bitcoin to the lowest level in more than five months as risk aversion again swept across global markets.

The largest cryptocurrency dropped as much as 7.4% to $38,261, while second-ranked Ether slid below $3,000. Digital tokens overall have shed some $1 trillion in value since a November peak, according to CoinMarketCap data.“Bitcoin and the broader crypto market remain subject to the whims of macro variables,” Fundstrat Digital Asset Research strategists Sean Farrell and Will McEvoy wrote in a note.

Virtual coins have become emblematic of a retreat in speculative investments sparked by the prospect of tighter monetary policy in the US Bitcoin of late has tracked swings in technology stocks, which have been under pressure, with the Nasdaq 100 tumbling into a correction on Thursday.

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21 January 12:07

Mr Price grows sales, focuses on selling more full-price items

In a trading update for the three months to end-December, Mr Price saw growth of more than 19% in sales and income to R9.3 billion.

Its newly acquired PowerFashion and Yuppiechef businesses contributed R1 billion in sales and income. South African retail sales grew 5.8% (comparable stores by 4.0%) to R7.4 billion.

"Focus over the quarter was on selling more full-price items in a retail environment that was highly promotional, particularly the [Black Friday] month of November 2021. The result of this approach was a short-term loss in market share during October and November 2021," Mr Price said.

Prices of its products increased on average by 4.6%. 

Group online sales increased by almost 52%, and contributed 2.7% of total sales.

But the company says "consumers became more comfortable in the physical retail setting again", which was evidenced in the group's larger format stores located in the super-regional and regional shopping centres which performed "strongly".

Following the July unrest, the company started the quarter with 41 unopened looted stores.

Mr Price's share price rose by 5% following the update.

20 January 15:04

China cuts interest rates

China lowered mortgage lending benchmark rates on Thursday as monetary authorities step up efforts to prop up the slowing economy, after data earlier in the week pointed to a darkening outlook for the country's troubled property sector.

The cut to the one-year and five-year loan prime rates (LPR) followed surprise cuts by China's central bank on Monday to its short- and medium-term lending rates, and came days after the central bank's vice governor flagged more moves ahead.

With the property sector's downturn seen persisting into 2022 and the fast-spreading Omicron variant dampening consumer activity, many analysts say those easing measures will be necessary, even as other major economies, including the United States, appear set to tighten monetary policy this year.

December economic data showed further weakening in consumption and the property sector, both major growth drivers.At a monthly fixing on Thursday, China lowered its one-year loan prime rate (LPR) by 10 basis points to 3.70% from 3.80%. The five-year LPR was reduced by 5 basis points to 4.60% from 4.65%, its first cut since April 2020.

China's central bank "should hurry up, make our operations forward-looking, move ahead of the market curve, and respond to the general concerns of the market in a timely manner," People's Bank of China Vice Governor Liu Guoqiang said on Tuesday, heightening market expectations for more stimulus.

All 43 participants in a snap Reuters poll had predicted a cut to the one-year LPR for a second straight month. Among them, 40 respondents also forecast a reduction in the five-year rate.

The cut to the 5-year rate suggested that "the Chinese authorities are keen to lower the cost of credit lending, so total credit growth is expected to rebound after the Spring Festival to ease the pressure on macro economy," said Marco Sun, chief financial analyst at MUFG.

"China's monetary policy still has some room for easing in the first half of this year, depending on the policy transmission effect and the growth target set by annual parliamentary meeting in March."Property firms' shares and bonds jumped on Thursday following the LPR cut, as investors hoped it and other recent government measures would help to ease a funding squeeze in the sector that has seen a growing number of developers default on their debts.

Sheana Yue, China economist at Capital Economics, expects a further 20 bps cut to the one-year LPR in the first half of this year.

Interest rates on medium-term lending facilities (MLF) serve as a guide to the LPR. Market participants believe moves to the LPR should mimic adjustments to MLF rates.

Most new and outstanding loans in China are based on the one-year LPR. The five-year rate influences the pricing of mortgages.

- REUTERS

20 January 14:31

Tiger Brands appoints a director for its new Venture Capital Fund director

Tiger Brands has appointed Barati Mahloele as the first director for its Venture Capital Fund that was launched last year. 

Mahloele was vice president for investments at Zebu Investment Partners, and previously worked at Unilever where she held roles in South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, the UK and Australia.

"The fund’s mandate is to invest in start-up businesses that align to Tiger Brands’ consumer-relevant growth platforms of health and nutrition, snackification, and economical food options, and to grow these businesses alongside the entrepreneurs running them," Tiger Brands said. 


20 January 10:48

Rand jumps as dollar backtracks, commodity prices rise

The rand strengthened by more than 1.5% to R15.25/$ on Thursday morning amid dollar weakness and commodity price increases.

The dollar dipped on Thursday as this week's rally in U.S. Treasury yields paused.

Commodity-linked currencies gained amid rises in commodity prices and optimism about global economic growth.

The euro and sterling rose, gradually regaining some ground after suffering their worst days in a month on Tuesday, when the dollar was lifted by a jump in U.S. Treasury yields.

The European single currency was last at $1.1368, up 0.2% on the day. The pound was 0.2% higher at $1.3636 and the yen was unchanged at 114.33 per dollar.

This left the dollar index, which measures the greenback against six major peers, at 95.428, 0.2% lower on the session.

The rand was trading at R20.79/pound and R17.32/euro.

The dollar has rallied in recent sessions although it has not performed as well as expected given the dramatic rise in expectations for the US Federal Reserve to begin hiking interest rates as early as March to curb soaring inflation.

US Benchmark 10-year note yields were at 1.8469%, off their two-year high of 1.902% reached early on Wednesday.

The gains come as traders prepare for the United States to tighten monetary policy at a faster pace than previously thought. Fed funds futures have fully priced in a rate hike in March and four in all for 2022.

Elsewhere, a combination of higher commodity prices and expectations for tighter policy supported the Aussie and the Loonie.

The Aussie firmed 0.3%, extending advances from the previous day, and the Canadian dollar was heading back towards the 10-week high it touched on Wednesday, with one U.S. dollar worth C$1.2489.

Analysts said a strong Australian labour market reading overnight was also helping the Aussie.

"The latest Australian employment report provided further clear evidence that labour market conditions continue to tighten, and have reinforced expectations that the RBA (Reserve Bank of Australia) will decide to bring an immediate end to the QE (quantitative easing) programme at their next policy meeting on 1st February," said MUFG analyst Lee Hardman.

Hardman noted that the Canadian dollar has been the best performing G10 currency in 2022, attributing that to a sharp rebound in oil prices - which have hit seven-year highs - and speculation the Bank of Canada will soon start to hike rates.The Norwegian crown, another currency linked to the price of oil, also performed well, rising 0.2% against both the euro and the dollar."

Overnight commodity prices were the big driver for commodity currencies, but you've still got the undertone that (COVID-19 variant) Omicron is not going to have a lasting detrimental impact on the global economic outlook," said Kim Mundy, senior economist and currency strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

- REUTERS, with additional reporting by Fin24

20 January 10:37

Woolworths warns of profit slump as Australian lockdown hits sales

Woolworths has warned that its headline earnings will fall by between 30% and 40% for the 26 weeks to end 26 December, compared to the same period in the previous year.

Sales fell by 2.1%, and company says that trade was "severely impacted" by the extended lockdowns in Australia and by the civil unrest in South Africa."Trading momentum across all divisions except Fashion Beauty Home (FBH) improved over the last six weeks of the period supported by more targeted Black Friday promotions, positive festive season trade, and the lifting of lockdown restrictions in Australia," the company said.

In Australia and New Zealand, stores representing 70% of its brick-and-mortar sales base had to close during a lockdown period. This contributed to a 9% fall in sales at its David Jones chain. Country Road Group sales declined by 3.1%.

In South Africa, its Woolworths Food business grew sales by 3.8% for the six months, with prices increasing on average by 2.6%."Sales growth should be considered in the context of the high Covid-19 base, which benefitted from increased home consumption," Woolworths said. Online food sales increased by 56%, and is now contributing 3.1% of South African sales.

Its fashion, beauty and homeware business grew sales by 4.2%, with prices up by 5.4%."Trading momentum slowed in the last six weeks of the period primarily due to womenswear performing below expectations." Online sales grew by 19.2%, contributing 4.4% of South African sales.

The Woolworths Financial Services net book grew by 5.3% year-on-year to the end of December 2021, compared to a 7.8% contraction at 31 December 2020. Its impairment rate for bad debt improved to 4.0%, compared to 4.1%.Its share price was down a percent to R54.23 on Thursday morning.

20 January 10:36

Rampant' demand for Savanna boosts Distell

In a trading update for the six months to end-December, Distell's revenue in South Africa grew by more than 20% thanks to “exceptional” growth in sales of its cider brands (Savanna and Hunter’s) and ready-to-drink products, including Bernini, Esprit and Klipdrift & Cola.

But "rampant” demand for Savanna and its core spirits brands has worsened glass shortages in South Africa, Distell added.READ | SA booze sellers hit by beer and cider scarcity, amid 'severe' shortage of glass.

The strong revenue growth came despite alcohol sales bans, which caused the loss of 25 trading days in South Africa over the past six months, compared to 38 in the same period in the previous year.Distell reports that while the civil unrest in July caused R100 million in damage to one of its distribution centres, insurance claims have covered the losses and operations were “normalised” within six weeks.

Across the group, Distell’s revenue increased by around 15%, with sales in the rest of Africa seeing mid-single-digit revenue growth despite lockdowns and sales restrictions. Botswana lost almost a third of its trading period due to these restrictions, and Distell was also hit by stock supply issues in Namibia.

Its international business recorded a single-digit revenue decline as lockdown-related restrictions hit sales in Taiwan, one of its largest revenue earners.

South African port disruptions amid the civil unrest and a cyber attack on Transnet also had a “material adverse effect” on wine exports.

Distell says its overall net debt position is expected to be under R1 billion, aided by strong cash generation and trade receivables collection ahead of expectations during the festive season.

Its share price was flat at R169.23 on Thursday morning.

Heineken has made a €2.2 billion (R38.5 billion) offer for Distell.

Its offer will split Distell into two businesses. Distell's cider and other ready-to-drink beverages as well as spirits and wine brands will form a new business ("Newco"), which will be combined with Heineken's southern African business and the Dutch group's interest in Namibia Breweries Limited (NBL), which owns Windhoek and Tafel.

The deal is expected to be concluded this year.

19 January 19:50

Capitec slumps after BEE deal statement

On Wednesday, Capitec's share price fell by 4% to R2 019 after the company issued a statement explaining the impact of its plans to issue R1 billion in new shares to employees.

A maximum number of 625 000 shares will be issued to more than 10 000 employees.

This will boost the ownership element of Capitec's broad-based black economic empowerment scorecard by 1.5 points.

The ownership targets of the Financial Sector Charter require Capitec to have at least 25% black ownership, while the company currently has 19.39%.

But the new shares will dilute its headline earnings per share, lowering it by 13.3%, the company said.

A five-year trade restriction will be imposed on the employees who receive the shares. 

19 January 19:10

JSE gains, with big jumps in Kumba, Implats and Sibanye

The JSE's All-Share Index gained 1.6% on Wednesday, with Kumba rallying 9%. Implats and  Sibanye rose almost 6%, while Richemont gained another 5%.

European and US stock markets rose Wednesday, with easing Omicron virus concerns eclipsing fresh fears of monetary policy tightening in both Britain and the eurozone as the world battles rocketing inflation, dealers said.

World oil prices zoomed to more seven-year peaks on renewed unrest in the crude-rich Middle East, and on expectations of resurgent post-pandemic demand.

London stocks won 0.5 percent in afternoon trading as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that most Covid restrictions would be lifted from next week.

Meanwhile, official data showing UK inflation soared to a near three-decade high in December raised speculation of another Bank of England interest rate hike in February and briefly pushed the pound to a 22-month euro peak.

Paris stocks gained 0.8 percent and Frankfurt added 0.6 percent.

Yields for 10-year German bonds rose above zero percent for the first time since May 2019, as surging inflation also prompted fears of monetary tightening in the eurozone.

Wall Street moved higher at the opening bell, recovering part of the ground Tuesday when it suffered sharp losses. The Dow added 0.2 percent, the S&P 500 rose 0.4 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite climbed 0.6 percent.

"It's just a brief rebound," OANDA analyst Craig Erlam told AFP.

"There's still so much anxiety around inflation and interest rates across the markets," he added.

Despite the prospect of more interest rate hikes, there remains a broad belief that the global recovery is still on track as economies reopen and fears over the less-severe Omicron coronavirus variant recede.

"We have to consider that markets have been extremely worried about the potential for further lockdowns/restrictions resulting from the recent Omicron variant," XTB analyst Walid Koudmani told AFP.

"Since that has proven to be a less significant concern than previously expected, markets are now slightly more optimistic as many economies are expected to extend the post-pandemic recovery."

In contrast, Asian equity markets were hit by growing fears about the US Federal Reserve's plans to fight surging inflation by ramping up interest rates, following a hefty sell-off on Wall Street.

A rise in prices since early 2021 has forced central banks around the world to start winding back the colossal financial support put in place at the start of the pandemic.

The main focus is now on the Fed, which has so far refrained from lifting rates to bring US inflation down from four-decade highs.

Officials are currently reining in their massive bond-buying programme and aim to hike borrowing costs in March.

Expectations for a quick run-up in rates has sent Treasury yields rocketing and caused near-panic, with all three main indexes on Wall Street deep in the red so far this year, having hit multiple records in 2021.

In commodities, oil extended gains on news of an explosion Tuesday at a key pipeline running from Iraq to Turkey that transports more than 450,000 barrels a day. Turkey's state oil said Wednesday that it had resumed crude flows through the pipeline.

That came a day after Yemen's Huthi rebels in Abu Dhabi claimed an attack that triggered a fuel tank blast, and warned civilians and foreign firms in the United Arab Emirates to avoid "vital installations".

- AFP, with additional reporting by Fin24

19 January 12:51

German bond yields top 0% for first time since May 2019

Yields for 10-year German bonds passed into positive territory on Wednesday for the first time since May 2019 as surging inflation in the eurozone prompted fears of monetary tightening.

On Wednesday morning, Bund yields passed zero briefly to touch 0.001 percent for the first time since the European Central bank launched a stimulus programme in 2019 to tackle the risk of a recession in the eurozone.

A bond generates a negative yield when investors are willing to pay more for it than the actual sum they are investing in it plus the returns it is offering.

German government 10-year bonds are seen as a safe haven for investors to turn to in times of instability.

The benchmark figure touched minus 0.91 percent in March 2020 when the coronavirus was taking hold in Europe, as investors were willing to take a loss in exchange for the relative safety offered by the government bond.

The further relaxation of the ECB's policy to prop up the economy kept yields deep in negative territory until recently.

But unusually high inflation in recent months has encouraged central banks everywhere to tighten their response, with the ECB announcing a "step-by-step" reduction to their asset-purchasing programme.

The massive bond buying programme is the ECB's main crisis-fighting tool, aimed at keeping borrowing costs low to stoke economic growth.

Inflation in the eurozone reached a record five percent in December, its highest value since records began in January 1997.

But unlike in the United States, where expectations are mounting that the Federal Reserve will hike rates multiple times this year, the ECB's guidance still points towards its first rises in 2023.

The Frankfurt-based institution has long held its interest rates at historic lows, including a negative overnight deposit rate, which charges banks to park their money at the ECB.

- AFP

19 January 12:02

Reserve Bank faces difficult choice after higher-than-expected inflation

South Africa’s inflation rate moved closer to the top of the central bank’s target range in December, highlighting the difficult choice between taming price growth and supporting a sluggish economy policy makers will face when deciding on interest rates next week. The annual inflation rate rose to a near five-year high of 5.9%, compared with 5.5% in November, Statistics South Africa said Wednesday in a statement on its website. The median of 19 economists’ estimates in a Bloomberg survey was 5.7%. The December reading brought the average inflation rate for 2021 to 4.5%, matching the central bank’s estimate published at its November monetary policy committee meeting.

While the South African Reserve Bank officially targets price growth in a band of 3% to 6%, its MPC prefers to anchor expectations close to the midpoint of the range. Inflation, stoked by near record-high fuel prices and rising food costs, has now breached 4.5% for eight consecutive months.

The central bank raised its benchmark interest rate for the first time in three years in November. The implied policy rate path of its quarterly projection model, which the MPC uses as a guide, indicates one 25 basis-point increase in each of the next 12 quarters. Governor Lesetja Kganyago has long maintained that the model is merely a guide and that future decisions will be data dependent.

The Reserve Bank could pause the hiking cycle this month to support an economy reeling from the fallout of a fourth wave of coronavirus infections. Economists predict international travel bans, imposed on South Africa after its discovery of the omicron variant, risk stalling the country’s economic recovery. Forward-rate agreements starting in one month, used to speculate on borrowing costs, signal traders are pricing in a full quarter-point increase in the repurchase rate on January 27.

- BLOOMBERG

19 January 09:58

Karooooo sees strong revenue growth

Karooooo, which owns Cartrack Holdings,  reported revenue growth of 22% to R720 million for the three months to end-November.

Its subscribers grew by 18% from the previous quarter, to 1 470 385.

Earnings per share increased 10% to R4.72 . Its share price was up 2.7% to R575 on Tuesday morning.

19 January 09:37

Richemont up 5%, reports fastest Christmas sales growth in decade

Richemont reported its fastest holiday-season sales growth in at least a decade as consumers splurged on Cartier jewels and Chloe fashion, the latest sign that the luxury-goods market is thriving again.  

Revenue climbed 32% excluding currency shifts, reaching 5.66 billion euros (R99 billion) in the three months through December, exceeding pre-pandemic levels. Analysts expected 18% growth on that basis to 5 billion euros.

The luxury-goods industry has been benefiting from a rebound in demand for jewellery, timepieces and fashion items as vaccination rates across the world increase and people socialize and travel more. Prada said Tuesday that its sales recovered to above levels seen before the coronavirus outbreak. 

Jewellery was the best-performing unit, though fashion, accessories and leather goods have also been improving, a sign that turnaround efforts have been gaining traction at brands like Chloe and Montblanc. Online sales rose 19%, slower than brick-and-mortar retail’s 45% growth.

Investors are waiting to hear what Richemont’s plans are for Yoox Net-A-Porter after the company in November said it’s preparing to cede control of the unit via a deal with web-shopping specialist Farfetch.

While sales in Asia Pacific beat estimates, investors may be surprised that the increase in China, a key market for luxury, was only 7%. Revenue in that market had soared 80% in the year-earlier period. Richemont's share price was up 5% Wednesday morning.

- BLOOMBERG

19 January 09:35

Pan African Resources reports record half-year production

Pan African Resources which produces gold from its Barberton, Elikhulu and Evander operations, said production jumped 9.9% to reach over 108 000 ounces for the half-year ended in December.

The production result exceeded the group’s own expectation of 105 000 ounces said Pan African CEO Cobus Loots.

The company is now increasing its full-year production guidance to approximately 200 000 ounces.

Group net senior debt decreased by 60.1% to $23.9 million after payment of a record net dividend of $21.6 million in December.

The company, which is acquiring tailings at Blyvoor Gold, is now conducting an independent fatal flaw assessment and gap analysis which will be completed by April. A 10MW solar photovoltaic plant at Evander Mines and large-scale agriculture projects at Barberton Mines are on track for commissioning before the end of June.

- Lisa Steyn

19 January 08:17

Nikkei sinks more than 3% as Sony and Toyota plunge

Tokyo's key Nikkei 225 index dropped more than three percent Wednesday as market heavyweights Sony and Toyota plunged and after losses on Wall Street fuelled by worries over rising interest rates.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index shed 3.07 percent, or 866.21 points, to 27,391.04 shortly before the close, while the broader Topix index was down 3.06 percent, or 60.53 points, at 1,917.85.

AFP

18 January 18:56

Aspen earns R800m in sales from J&J vaccine

In a trading update for the six months to end-December, the pharmaceutical group Aspen expects its total revenue growth to grow by between 9% and 11%.

The company says its earnings growth should be even stronger, benefiting from lower finance costs. 

Its results also benefited from R800 million in sales from the Covid-vaccine to Johnson & Johnson.

While Aspen previously put its active pharmaceutical ingredients business on the selling block, it has decided against getting rid of the business for now. 

"(The) negative effects of Covid-19 on this business during the period of the due diligence, and expectations of a recovery of the delta in the performance through a stronger outcome in the second half of this financial year, has resulted in it currently being inopportune to establish an optimum value for the API Business," said Aspen.

18 January 17:25

Sasol up 6% as oil rockets to 7-year highs

The JSE's All Share Index was almost a weaker at 74 919 points. Naspers and Prosus both lost 3.4%, while Anglo Platinum and Northam also gave up more than 3%.

But Sasol's share price jumped more than 6% to R308.20 as the oil price climbed to its highest levels in more than seven years Tuesday, in part on hopes of a global economic recovery ramping up demand.

Brent North Sea reached $88.13 per barrel, while US contract WTI hit $85.74 - the highest levels since October 2014 - before easing slightly in later trading.

Also supporting prices was the claim of an attack by Yemen's Huthi rebels in Abu Dhabi that triggered a fuel tank blast killing three people Monday, with the group warning civilians and foreign firms in the United Arab Emirates to avoid "vital installations".

The news fuelled concerns about supplies from the crude-rich region.

Wall Street's main indexes fell on Tuesday as big technology stocks were slammed by rising Treasury yields, while Goldman Sachs led declines among banks after posting its quarterly profit below expectations.<p>Two-year Treasury yields, which track short-term rate expectations, crossed 1% for the first time since February 2020 amid traders positioning for a more hawkish Federal Reserve ahead of a policy meeting next week.<p>Megacap firms including Google's Alphabet, Apple, Meta, Amazon and Tesla fell between 0.6% and 3.7%.

"Tech is going to be bifurcated between the companies that are earning money today versus the companies that are promising to earn money tomorrow," said Thomas Hayes, managing member at Great Hill Capital LLC in New York.

"The companies that are promising to earn money tomorrow but not earning today are going to take big haircuts."

Goldman Sachs plunged 8.0% after missing fourth-quarter profit expectations on weak trading activity, while BNY Mellon shed 1.1% after posting quarterly results.

- AFP, Reuters and Fin24

Read more

18 January 14:37

Increase in Coronation's assets under management

Coronation Fund Managers confirmed that its total assets under management as at 31 December 2021 were R662 billion, up from R633.8 billion in September.

18 January 12:46

Strong increase in SA's PGM production in November 

Mining production increased by 5.2%, year-on-year in November 2021, Statistics SA reported.

The production of platinum group metals was 38% higher than a year before, while iron ore was up 9%.

Coal (-8%) was a significant negative contributor.

Mineral sales at current prices increased by 22% year-on-year in November 2021. PGM sales were 34% higher, while gold was up 60% and coal 30%.

But iron ore sales fell by almost 15%.

18 January 12:38

Vodacom shareholders approve Egyptian deal

Vodacom minority shareholders overwhelmingly voted in favour of its proposed acquisition of a 55% stake in Vodafone Egypt.

Shareholders also approved the issuing of new shares to fund the R41 billion transaction.

The transaction will be funded with R8.2 billion in cash, as well as the proceeds of issuing some 242 million new Vodacom shares, at R135.75 each.

18 January 08:19

Brent oil climbs to 7-year high as unrest stirs in the Middle East

Brent oil extended gains to the highest level in seven years as geopolitical tensions stirred in the Middle East and concerns about the demand impact of the omicron virus variant eased.

Yemen’s Houthi fighters claimed to have launched drone strike on the United Arab Emirates -- the third-biggest OPEC producer -- that caused an explosion and fire on the outskirts of the capital Abu Dhabi. West Texas Intermediate oil also briefly rose above $85 a barrel, the first time since October.

Adding to bullish sentiment is further strength in Asia’s physical crude market and shrinking global oil inventories. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. raised its Brent forecasts through 2022 and 2023, predicting $100 oil in the third quarter.

Crude has made a red-hot start to the year with the market tightening on robust demand and outages at producers including Libya. Segments across the oil complex are showing strength, from diesel to jet fuel, which is soaring in Europe as air travel withstands the omicron impact.

OPEC is set to release its monthly report later Tuesday, providing a snapshot of the market.

"Sentiment in the market remains constructive, and the attack on the UAE has offered only a further boost to prices," said Warren Patterson, the head of commodities strategy at ING Groep NV. "Supply disruptions coupled with firm demand has meant that the oil market is tighter than expected."

One of the biggest attacks to date on UAE soil ignited a fire at Abu Dhabi’s main international airport on Monday and set fuel tanker trucks ablaze in a nearby industrial area. It took place days after the Iranian-backed Houthi fighters warned Abu Dhabi against intensifying its air campaign against them.

Spot differentials for Russian Sokol oil cargoes scheduled to be shipped in March rose by at least 40 cents a barrel from the previous trade, while the premium commanded by ESPO crude -- a favorite grade among Chinese processors -- surged to the highest since November, according to traders.

Bloomberg

17 January 19:27

Shares rise, China growth bolster sentiment

The JSE's All Share index ended Monday 0.6% higher, with Woolworths and Truworths up 4%. British American Tobacco up 4% as well. The rand was flat at R15.39/$.

European stock markets also climbed on Monday as China's unexpectedly muted growth slowdown and optimism over the impact of the Omicron coronavirus variant boosted investor confidence.

Oil rose modestly on limited supply concerns, while the dollar was up against major rivals as Wall Street was closed for a US public holiday.

The fast-spreading Omicron strain had initially sparked fears for the global economic recovery, but studies indicating that it causes milder illness and government booster vaccine programmes have calmed traders' nerves.

London, Paris and Frankfurt all ended the day higher.

"The relatively lower mortality rates, coupled with ongoing vaccinations efforts, has raised hopes we will transition to endemic and that the economy will recover strongly," said market analyst Fawad Razaqzada of ThinkMarkets.

Britain's benchmark FTSE 100 index climbed to new highs in 2022 after pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline rejected a bid from Pfizer for a consumer healthcare unit.

GlaxoSmithKline shares rose to the top of the index, while Pfizer's sank to the bottom as the US pharma behemoth said it would press on with a bid for GSK Consumer healthcare.

Concerns over soaring inflation and the US Federal Reserve's stance on hiking interest rates to counter it did not temper investor confidence in European stocks.

The trend was "due to a relatively more dovish central bank and the potential for a strong rebound in economic growth as nations ease travel restrictions amid ongoing booster vaccination efforts", said Razaqzada.

"As we head into 2022, we believe that the post-pandemic bull market remains broadly intact," added Bank of Singapore analyst Eli Lee.

"Historically, bull markets do not end at the beginning of rate hike cycles, and positive trends in global economic growth and earnings continue to be positive fundamental drivers for the market."

China on Monday defied expectations and posted growth figures of 8.1 percent in 2021, although this slowed in the final months amid fresh coronavirus outbreaks, disruptive regulatory crackdowns and property market crises.

Covid infections in the world's second-largest economy climbed to their highest level since March 2020 as Beijing pursues its zero-Covid policy ahead of the Winter Olympics.

But mainland China shares were supported by news that the country's central bank had cut interest rates for the first time since the height of the pandemic last year as officials look to kickstart stuttering growth.

"Rising infections in China just three weeks before the Winter Olympics could lead to widespread economic uncertainty, particularly if the situation is not handled effectively in the short term," said XTB market analyst Walid Koudmani.

Benchmark oil contract Brent North Sea briefly reached the highest level for more than three years at $86.71 per barrel, adding to strong inflation concerns.

"Markets remain focused on the delicate balance between supply and demand which has appeared to impact price fluctuations quite significantly throughout most of the post pandemic economic recovery," said Koudmani.

17 January 13:45

China tops forecasts with 8.1% growth in 2021 but headwinds loom

China's economy rebounded in 2021 with its best growth in a decade, helped by robust exports, but there are signs that momentum is slowing on weakening consumption and a property downturn, pointing to the need for more policy support.

Growth in the fourth quarter hit a one-and-a-half-year low, government data showed on Monday shortly after the central bank moved to prop up the economy with a cut to a key lending rate for the first time since early 2020.

The world's second-largest economy is struggling with a rapidly cooling property sector, as well as sporadic small-scale COVID-19 outbreaks that could deal a blow to its factories and supply chains.

Several Chinese cities went on high alert ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday travel season, as the Omicron variant reached more areas including the capital Beijing.

- Reuters

Read more

17 January 10:22

Dutch giant Vitol progresses its bid to buy JSE-listed Vivo Energy

Dutch energy giant Vitol, has progressed its bid to buy out shareholders in JSE-listed Vivo Energy shareholders, which distributes Shell and Engen branded fuels and lubricants in Africa, and has obtained key approval from the South African Reserve Bank.

Vitol which has formed a subsidiary named BidCo to act as an investment vehicle for the $2.3 billion (about R35.3 billion) cash deal to acquire all of the Vivo shares not already owned by Vitol.

Vivo, which owns over 2 300 filling stations across 23 African countries, does not operate in South Africa but has a secondary listing on the JSE.

On Monday, the company announced the Financial Surveillance Department of the South African Reserve Bank approved the scheme document detailing the offer and the subsequent cancellation of the listing of the Vivo shares on the JSE.

There are still a raft of approvals required before the deal can be finalised.

Amongst other things, the scheme requires majority approval from shareholders and it must also be effected by a court sanction, as provided for by the UK Companies Act.

Subject to obtaining the requisite approvals, the scheme is expected to become effective in the third quarter of 2022.

17 January 06:56

Asian markets mixed as Fed hike looms and China growth slows

Asian investors started the week on a cautious note Monday as they assessed the outlook ahead of an expected series of interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve, while data showed growth in China's economy slowed at the end of last year.

While the fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant continues to cast a shadow across trading floors, the focus is on the US central bank's plans to tighten monetary policy to fight surging inflation.

Fed officials were out in force last week flagging the merits of raising borrowing costs as soon as March, though boss Jerome Powell said they would be careful to ensure they do not knock the recovery in the world's top economy off course.

Still, expectations that the era of cheap cash that has helped power markets to record or multi-year highs has weighed heavily for months, while data showing consumer prices rocketing at a pace not seen in four decades has added to the downbeat mood.

A weak reading on retail sales for December caused by concern about the latest Covid wave and higher prices was compounded by a University of Michigan survey showing consumer sentiment fell sharply in January.

That saw Wall Street turn in a tepid performance Friday, with disappointing bank earnings also dragging sentiment.Despite the uncertain start to 2022 for global markets, Eli Lee at Bank of Singapore remained upbeat about the outlook.

"As we head into 2022, we believe that the post-pandemic bull market remains broadly intact," he said in a commentary."Historically, bull markets do not end at the beginning of rate hike cycles, and positive trends in global economic growth and earnings continue to be positive fundamental drivers for the market."

Macau casino stocks rise

Asia was mixed in early trade with Tokyo, Shanghai, Sydney, Singapore, Taipei and Manila up but Hong Kong, Seoul, Wellington and Jakarta down.

Mainland Chinese shares were given some support by news that the central bank had cut interest rates for the first time since the height of the pandemic last year as officials look to kickstart stuttering growth.

Data showed Monday that the world's number-two economy expanded 8.1 percent last year -- its best rate in 10 years -- but slowed in the final three months as it was hit by virus lockdowns around the country and weakness in the crucial property sector.

Hong Kong-listed casino stocks rocketed after Macau officials on Friday unveiled regulatory measures for the sector that were not as bad as initially feared.

Under the proposed bill, the number of gaming concessions will remain at six but their term will be halved to 10 years, while the proportion of local ownership in casino firms will be lifted from 10 percent to 15 percent.

The revisions should "remove most investors' key concerns, (for example on) dividends, government oversight, minimum shareholding by a Macau permanent resident, gaming tax, etcetera", Citigroup analysts including George Choi said in a note.

Sands Macau soared almost 15 percent, Wynn Macau and MGM China piled on more than 10 percent each, while Melco was up eight percent.

That followed strong gains in New York, where Las Vegas Sands and Melco rocketed more than 14 percent.

AFP

14 January 13:26

Vivo Energy CFO resigns to take up position at Aston Martin

Vivo Energy , the owner of the Shell and Engen brands across 23 countries in Africa, will lose its Chief Financial Officer, Doug Lafferty who has resigned to take up a position at Aston Martin.

Lafferty, who joined the company less than a year ago, will remain a Vivo director until he leaves which will be no later than 13 July, Vivo said.

The group said the search for a new CFO is underway and a further update will be announced in due course. Lafferty will remain focused on the delivery of the company’s full year results, due 2 March, and on ensuring the effective transition of his responsibilities.

"Doug has made a big impact on our business, contributing significantly to the development of our strategy and helping drive the continued recovery following the impacts of Covid-19,” said Christian Chammas, CEO of Vivo Energy.

Having served as CEO since 2012, Chammas will soon hand over the reins to TotalEnergies executive Stanislas Mittelman.    

- Lisa Steyn

14 January 07:06

Ascendis interim CEO resigns after just over two weeks in the job

Wellness company Ascendis Health on Thursday announced that Andrew Marshall, who took over as acting CEO at the beginning of January, filling the void after Mark Sardi’s resignation, has stepped down from the role.

Cheryl-Jane Kujenga, the current CFO, took the joint role of joint CFO and interim CEO with effect from Thursday. 

Ascendis concluded a recapitalisation agreement in October, enabling it to repay its R7.7 billion debt. As part of the deal, the group - which also owns the Junglevites and Vitaforce brands - transferred its Cyprus-based pharmaceutical company Remedica and its Romania-based Sun Wave Pharma businesses to its lenders.

It announced this week that in order to repay the debt, it advanced a new R550 million facility, which will also provide extra working capital to the company.

 "It is currently envisaged that the recapitalisation plan will be implemented by way of the discharge of the debt in exchange for interests in certain of the company’s non-core businesses on terms still to be agreed," Ascendis said. 

It also announced that Harry Smit, a current independent non-executive director of the company, was appointed board chair with effect from Thursday as well. 

13 January 10:24

Steinhoff's European subsidiary The Pepco Group opens 146 new stores 

Steinhoff's pan-European subsidiary, The Pepco Group, opened 146 new stores in the first quarter of 2022 while growing revenue by 12%, it said in a trading update on Thursday.

Fifty-five new stores were opened in what the group described as the "strategically important" markets of Austria, Italy and Spain.

The Pepco Group, which is listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange, contains the PEPCO, Poundland and Dealz brands. It sells clothes, general merchandise, toys, and fast-moving consumer goods, mainly in Eastern Europe.

It contains Steinhoff's assets in Europe after it sold off its other major businesses Poco and Conforama.

The group's CEO, Andy Bond, said in a statement that he would be leaving at the end of March "confident that we have a clear growth plan and strong capability to deliver our long term-term profit growth aspirations". 

- Jan Cronje

13 January 10:22

Tharisa kicks off new financial year with record production

Platinum group metals (PGM) and chrome producer Tharisa has reported the best quarter on record for the three months ended in December.

The group said it set quarterly production records set for processing volumes, as well as for PGM and chrome concentrate production.

The miner said it milled 1.43 million tonnes of PGM during the quarter, representing a 10% increase. PGM production increased 9.2% in the quarter and chrome production was up 1.5%.

Tharisa CEO Phoevos Pouroulis said the result was a great start to the group’s new financial year "which will see the company transform further with the developments at our flagship asset, namely the integration of the Vulcan fine chrome recovery circuit at the Tharisa Mine, enabling us to reach two million tonnes per annum of chrome production, reduce costs and carbon emissions per unit".

- Lisa Steyn 

12 January 17:28

JSE jumps, with Naspers up 9%, as investors shrug off US inflation data

Stock markets rose and the dollar fell against most currencies Wednesday despite figures showing US inflation rising at its fastest pace since June 1982.

The US consumer price index (CPI) jumped 7 percent in 2021, the highest increase since June 1982, adding pressure on authorities to tame surging inflation wave brought on by the pandemic and response efforts.

But investors appeared to take the data in their stride after Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell indicated Tuesday he was ready to raise interest rates while trying to preserve the US recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.

The JSE's All Share Index was up almost 3%, with Naspers gaining more than 9% to R2 673.44. The rand was almost 2% stronger at R15.38.US and European stocks all pushed higher after the inflation data, with the tech-rich Nasdaq, which had been particularly jittery at the start of the year, rising 1.0 percent at the start of trading.

"It looks like the market had prepared for even hotter inflation, which obviously didn't materialise. So the reaction can best be described as relief," said Fawad Razaqzada, an analyst at ThinkMarkets.

Fears of an abrupt end to the ultra-loose monetary policies, which have helped power a two-year market rally, made for a torrid start to trading this year. But on Wednesday, the mood appeared resolutely upbeat.European and US markets appeared sanguine about the price rises in the world's biggest economy after Powell's reassurances on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, data out of China on Wednesday showed inflation in that country had eased, handing Beijing room for measures to kickstart the stuttering economy including interest rate cuts, according to analysts.

Prices are currently rising at their fastest pace in decades owing to a number of pressures including surging wage growth, supply chain snarls and high energy costs.

Oil prices also rose on Tuesday whereas the dollar was down.

While most observers expect equities to endure some tough times in the near future, they remain broadly upbeat about the outlook for this year.

"It would appear relentless optimism is perhaps returning to the markets and dip buyers are diving back in, Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda, wrote in a note to clients.

- AFP, with additional reporting by Fin24

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