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S.Africa stocks end flat, eyes on MPC next week

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African stocks closed higher on Friday for the first time this week as a late rally inspired by a turn-around on Wall Street saw the market claw back losses.

The blue-chip Top-40 index ended 0.06 percent higher at 29,716.93. The broader All-share index added the same percentage to finish at 33,572.07.

Next week, investors will be monitoring the outlook for Chinese growth, as well as the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting of South Africa‘s central bank on Thursday.

Weak factory activity data in China and the euro zone has undermined faith in the pace of a global upturn.

A Reuters poll of economists expects the MPC to keep its key lending rate on hold at 5.5 percent, although its comments will scrutinised for signals about the timing of expected rate hikes.

South Africa’s market had been on course for its fourth consecutive session of losses until U.S. stocks pared losses as energy and basic materials shares, the sectors that had suffered the worst hit on Thursday, rebounded.

By the time Johannesburg closed, Wall Street was up, which could lift local shares on Monday.

Gainers included South Africa’s main gold miners, whose shares rose in line with the spot price of bullion.

AngloGold Ashanti, the world’s No. 3 gold producer, lead the way, rising 1.59 percent to 292 rand.

Blue chip shares that lost ground included Capital Shopping Centres, which shed 1.81 percent to 40.78 rand. Consumer goods firm Tiger Brands stumbled 1.94 percent to 263.50 rand.

Stocks that rely heavily on consumer demand are coming into focus with the MPC looming. While rates are not likely to rise next week, many analysts see the central bank tightening policy to curb inflation in the bud – a scenario that is bearish for retailers.

“The MPC is expected to leave interest rates unchanged at its meeting next week, as concerns over the strength of the global economy persist,” said Investec economist Annabel Bishop.

“However, it is becoming increasingly likely that a 50 basis point hike before the end of the year will transpire – potentially in November if not before,” she said in a note.

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