JOHANNESBURG, March 18 (Reuters) - South African equities rebounded in afternoon trade after comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin calmed global markets and emboldened traders to pick up stocks that had been hammered in past sessions.
In a parliamentary speech, Putin said that while he approved plans to make Crimea part of his country, Russia did not want further partitioning of Ukraine.
"There was confusion in the market this morning, which was subdued later in the afternoon after his comments and the equity market rebounded," said Wilmar Buys, portfolio manager at FFO Securities.
"We see a little bit of bargain hunting on shares that had really dipped in the past couple of days."
The blue-chip Top-40 index was up 0.56 percent to 42,393.08 while the All-share was up 0.52 percent to 47,059.19.
Internet and media giant Naspers added 4.5 percent, the first rise in four sessions.
Naspers has been on the back foot following a sell-off in China's Tencent Holdings, of which it owns about a third. Investors punished Tencent after China's central bank ordered a halt to some mobile payment methods used by Internet companies due to security concerns.
Shares of furniture seller JD Group rocketed nearly 30 percent after retailer Steinhoff alerted the market minutes before trading closed that it intended to increase its shareholding in JD to up to 98 percent.
Gold stocks, which are often sought in times of tension, pared recent gains. Johannesburg's gold index lost more than 3 percent, led by Harmony Gold, which fell more than 5 percent.
Activity was robust with 206 million shares changing hands, according to preliminary exchange data.
Buys said he expected volumes to pick up further on Wednesday and Thursday as institutional investors close out hedge positions on their expiry on March 20th. South African markets will be closed on Friday to mark Human Rights Day. (Reporting by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura; Editing by Ed Cropley)