* Top-40 index edges up 0.25 pct
* All-share index inches up 0.14 pct
JOHANNESBURG Aug 20 South African stocks ended
a touch higher on Wednesday as gains in bourse heavyweights such
as BHP Billiton offset sharp falls in banks and retailers.
Banks featured on the decliners' list, a day after Moody's
downgraded the big four lenders, citing a lower likelihood of
support from the central bank to protect creditors in the wake
of African Bank's debt crisis.
Standard Bank dropped 1.54 percent, Barclays Africa
gave up 2.1 percent, FirstRand was off 1.3
percent and Nedbank lost 0.9 percent.
But some investors say the step taken by Moody's was not
warranted because the four banks had different business models
to the collapsed African Bank.
"Maybe this is a little bit premature. They probably could
have waited another six or so months to see what happened," said
Richard Segal, emerging markets strategist at Jefferies.
On the upside, bourse and mining heavyweight BHP Billiton
was up 1.6 percent at 353.14 rand, recouping some of
the losses suffered in the previous session when it held off on
a share buyback. Rival Anglo American added 1.19
percent, tracking higher metal prices.
The JSE Top-40 index edged up 0.25 percent to
46,313 and the broader All-share index inched up 0.14
percent to 51,436.
With more interest rate hikes predicted, investors also
offloaded retailers as fears grew the spending power of
households, whose debt to disposable income is at worryingly
high levels, would diminish further.
Massmart plunged 8.6 percent to 134 rand after the
unit of Wal-Mart flagged a 29 percent decline in
first-half profit. Rival Shoprite, which posted its slowest
profit growth in 15 years on Tuesday, fell 2.4 percent to 142
Trade was active with 165 million shares trade, slightly
below last year's daily average of 176 million shares,
according to preliminary bourse statistics.
(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by Joe Brock)