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sout23JOHANNESBURG: South African stocks ended a see-saw session little changed on Friday as investors refrained from making aggressive bets ahead of the long holiday weekend amid lack of progress in the United States to avert a looming fiscal crisis.


Signs of a deepening recession in the euro zone in the form of bleak German manufacturing data also gave players pause for caution after pushing the domestic stock market to three successive record highs this week.


South African markets will be closed on Monday for a public holiday.


The benchmark JSE Top-40 index edged down 0.03 percent to 34,277.21 and the broader All-share index was flat at 38,674.48.


The stock market has hit a string of record highs in the past several months, seemingly oblivious to a slowdown in the global economy, the euro-zone debt crisis and violent wildcat strikes at home.


This has reinforced the view of traders who have said the bourse's strength reflects a lack of decent alternatives for returns as interest rates around the world remain at historic lows.


"People are looking for better yield for their money and some businesses are still making profit even in this environment, so stocks remain the best assets to invest in," said Ferdi Heyneke, a portfolio manager at Afrifocus.


Investors are on course to reap about a 20 percent return on domestic equities this year but a weaker rand, which has lost about 7 percent of its value so far in 2012, has eaten into returns for foreign investors.


Among equity movers, Aquarius Platinum surged 10.3 percent to 6.84 rand after the platinum miner said it and its JV partner would sell control of their Zimbabwean mine to locals for $550 million.  


"Fears of outright expropriation were abound earlier in the year and was a major driver for the shares' underperformance relative to other platinum plays," London-based brokerage house Liberum Capital said in a note.


But its JV partner Impala Platinum, which also operates its own mines in the southern African country, fell 4.25 percent to 155.98 rand.


Anglo American was down 1.48 percent at 258.15 rand, falling for the second day running, after broker UBS cut its rating on the global mining giant to neutral from buy.


A total of 203 million shares changed hands, according to preliminary exchange data, with gainers outnumbering decliners 164 to 110 while 70 stocks were unchanged.


Center>Copyright Reuters, 2012

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