South African stocks closed out in positive territory on Wednesday, amid a no surprises budget delivered by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
Resources stocks were again the darlings of the JSE at its opening, continuing that thread throughout the day, along with financials.
By 17:00 the JSE all share index was 0.94 percent firmer, with resources up a percent, platinum miners advanced 2.79 percent, but gold mining shares declined 0.97 percent.
Banks and financials firmed 1.48 percent and 1.30 percent respectively, while industrials collected 0.69 percent.
The rand was bid at 7.55 to the dollar from 7.72 when the JSE closed on Tuesday. Gold was quoted at $1119.23 a troy ounce from $1115.47/oz at the JSE's last close, and platinum was at $1543.50/oz, from $1533 at the bourse's previous close.
A local equities dealer said: "We saw no surprises in the budget delivered by the finance minister, and as we all know the market doesn't like surprises.
"The bond market firmed on a smaller than expected deficit, and the rand strengthened, which caused the bourse to drop about 150 points temporarily. However, it firmed again amid higher Dow Futures with better than expected housing stats."
Dow Jones Newswires reports that US stocks edged up Wednesday morning after a flurry of economic data showed improvements in the housing market and industrial production.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 34 points, or 0.3 percent, at 10302 in early trading.
A slew of US economic data topping economists' expectations helped lift the market early in the session.
The Commerce Department said Wednesday that housing stats climbed 2.8 percent in January to a seasonally adjusted 591,000 annual rate compared to the prior month, the strongest pace since July 2009. Single-family groundbreakings and apartment construction both rose. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires forecast a 5.9 percent increase in January housing starts, to an annual rate of 590,000.
Because December starts were revised up, falling 0.7 percent instead of 4.0 percent as reported originally, the January increase was in line with expectations, though the percentage change was different than forecast.
Meanwhile, the Labour Department reported that US import prices rose for the sixth straight month and by more than expected in January, largely due to a sharp increase in volatile oil prices.
Prices of goods imported into the United States rose by 1.4 percent in January compared to December, after increasing an upwardly revised 0.2 percent in December.
Separately, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday that US industrial production increased in January by 0.9 percent, slightly above economists' forecast of an 0.8 percent increase. Automotive products were the largest contributor to the gains. The rate industries used their capacity rose last month to 72.6 percent, in line with expectations.
In other markets, crude-oil futures rose above $77 per barrel and gold futures also climbed.
Still to come on Wednesday, the Fed will release minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee after 2 p.m. EST.
On the JSE, Anglo American (AGL) added 4.38 rand, or 1.50 percent, to 295.88 rand and BHP Billiton (BIL) picked up 3.13 rand, or 1.32 percent, to 239.44 rand.
Sasol (SOL) lost 2.75 rand to 279 rand.
Platinum miner Anglo Platinum (AMS) added a rand, to 735 rand, Impala Platinum (IMP) firmed 8.20 rand, or 4.36 percent, to 196.20 rand and Northam Platinum (NHM) advanced two rand, or 4.26 percent, to 49 rand.
Lonmin (LON) gained five rand or 2.25 percent to 227 rand.
Among gold counters, AngloGold Ashanti (ANG) wavered 2.60 rand, to 295 rand. The company earlier reported a narrowing of its adjusted headline loss to 58 cents a share for the full year to end December 2009 from an adjusted headline loss of 2,269 cents a share in 2008. Adjusted headline earnings were a positive 466 cents a share for the three months to end December 2009, compared to an adjusted headline loss of 1,319 cents a share in the September quarter.
Gold production at 1.182 million ounces for the quarter was 0.4 percent lower than the 1.187 million ounces produced in the December quarter of 2008 but 2 percent ahead of guidance of 1.16 million ounces.
Among other gold shares, Harmony (HAR) fell 117 cents, or 1.59 percent, to 72.45 rand.
Diversified miner Exxaro (EXX) was up 1.34 rand, or 1.25 percent, to 108.55 rand, and African Rainbow (ARI) firmed 5.73 rand, or 3.29 percent, to 179.94 rand.
ArcelorMittal (ACL) advanced 2.45 rand, or 2.21 percent, to 113.20 rand.
Industrial group SAB Miller (SAB) found 1.59 rand, to 205.59 rand. Tigerbrands (TBS) added 2.22 rand, or 1.28 percent, to 176 rand, along with Barloworld (BAW), up 1.26 rand, or 3 percent, to 43.31 rand.
Telecommunications group Telkom (TKG) saw a 45 rise, or 1.36 percent, to 33.60 rand.
Among banks, Standard Bank (SBK) picked up 2.03 rand, or 1.90 percent, to 109 rand and Absa (ASA) added 1.40 rand, or 1.05 percent, to 134.40 rand.
Investec (INL) rose 1.50 rand, or 2.70 percent, to 57 rand, and Old Mutual (OML) strengthened 34 cents, or 2.69 percent, to 12.97 rand.
Liberty Holdings (LBH) was up 40 cents at 68.75 rand. Liberty said Wednesday that for the 12 months ended December 2009, basic and headline earnings are expected to be between 38 million rand - 14.8 cents per ordinary share, and 46 million rand - 17.9 cents per ordinary share.
Having reported a substantial loss in the first half of the 2009 financial year, Liberty has traded profitably in the second six months and expects to report BEE normalised headline earnings of between 122 million rand and 148 million rand for the twelve months ended December 2009.
Retailer Spar (SPP) added 1.09 rand, or 1.54 percent, to 71.79 rand.
Construction group Murray and Roberts (MUR) marched 2.94 rand higher, or 7.04 percent, to 44.69 rand, Aveng (AEG) claimed 1.80 rand, or 4.89 percent, to 38.60 rand, WBH Ovcon (WBO) picked up 3.50 rand, or 3.48 percent, to 104 rand, and Basil Read (BSR) rose 51 cents, or 3.90 percent, to 13.60 rand.
Pretoria Portland Cement (PPC) gained 1.10 rand, or 3.34 percent, to 34 rand.
Media Group Naspers N (NPN) pocketed 3.92 rand, or 1.40 percent, to 284 rand.
Assore (ASR) declined 44.84 rand, or 6.02 percent, to 700.16 rand. The Mining holding company on Wednesday reported a significant drop in its first half basic and diluted headline earnings per share to 1,408 cents from 12,444 cents the year before.
This is after headline earnings for the six months to end December 2009 decreased by 88.7 percent compared to the same period in the previous fiscal year, to 336.9 million rand due to the significant decrease in the earnings of Assmang and the decreased commissions earned on the reduced sales of group products.
Assore holds a 50 percent interest in Assmang, whose headline earnings decreased by 89.3 percent to 601.7 million rand compared to the same period of the previous fiscal year, due to lower selling prices for all products.
Distell (DST) declined 34 cents, to 67.66 rand. The wine, spirits and flavoured alcoholic beverages producer and marketer on Wednesday reported headline earnings per share of 310.1 cents for the six-month ended December 31, 2009, from 316.6 cents previously.
The group recorded earnings per share of 309.9 cents, from 317 cents earlier.
Revenue grew 9.3 percent to R6.6 billion on a sales volume increase of 7,7 percent.
Profit for the period was at 622.85 million rand, from 635.9 million rand.
Directors resolved to declare a cash dividend of 124 cents, unchanged from 2008.