Johannesburg - The JSE ended marginally in the red on Thursday lacking any clear direction with a trader noting that it shrugged off slightly worse than expected US economic data.
"There were no strong moves today to provide clear direction," he said.
At the close, the JSE all-share index was down 0.17%, with resources sliding 0.62% and platinum miners falling 0.14%. Gold counters advanced 1.20%. Banks rose slightly, by 0.24%, financials gained 0.25%, and industrials picked up 0.10%.
The rand was trading at 7.21 to the dollar from 7.24 at the JSE's close on Wednesday. Gold was quoted at US$1 381.27 a troy ounce from US$1 370.70/oz at the JSE's previous close, while platinum was at $1 832.50/oz from $1 826.50 before.
Dow Jones Newswires reported that stocks fell modestly after jobless claims rose more than expected last week and separate data showed that US consumer prices continued to rise in January.
Besides the data, investors kept a close eye on tensions in Libya and Bahrain and a standoff between Iran and Israel over the Suez Canal, three geopolitical factors that were poised to weigh on investor sentiment.
The labour market remained sluggish despite the economy's improvement, with initial jobless claims increasing by 25 000 to 410 000 in the week ended February 12, the US Labour Department said on Thursday in its weekly report. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had expected claims would rise last week by 17 000 to 400 000. The previous week's figures were revised to 385 000 from 383 000.
Meanwhile, the Labour Department also said the seasonally adjusted consumer price index last month increased by 0.4% from December, but underlying inflation, which excludes volatile energy and food prices, rose by 0.2%.
Even though both numbers missed expectations, neither the worse-than-expected reading on jobs nor the somewhat higher inflation figures were likely to change investors' overall positive outlook, Timothy Harder, chief investment officer at Peak Capital Investment Services said.
"They both signal that the economy is getting healthier in the bigger picture," Harder said.