September 18, 2014 / 4:22 PM / 3 years ago

Naspers, banks lead South African stocks higher

JOHANNESBURG, Sept 18 (Reuters) - South African stocks ended higher on Thursday, led by Naspers after a broker upgrade while banks extended gains for the third straight session.

Naspers topped the gainers' list on the blue-chip index after brokerage house UBS raised its rating on the e-commerce and media firm to 'buy' from 'neutral'.

Its shares climbed 4.8 percent to 1,340 rand, the biggest daily percentage gain since July.

Banks featured among the gainers, continuing a recovery from a three week-low last week. Nedbank picked up 1.7 percent to 229.49 rand and FirstRand added 1.3 percent to 44.72 rand.

"There is a little bit of bargain hunting that has come back into the banking sector again," said Ferdi Heyneke, a trader at Afrifocus Securities.

Traders were largely unfazed by the South African central bank's decision to leave rates unchanged and a subsequent announcement that its governor would step down.

The blue-chip JSE Top-40 index was up 0.9 percent at 46,226 and the broader All-share index gained 0.7 percent to 51,547.

On the downside, gold shares dropped as the price of bullion sank to its lowest in more than eight months. Harmony fell 3.4 percent to 26.80 rand and larger rival Gold Fields dropped 1.9 percent to 46.68.

Trade was robust, with 294 million shares changing hands, well above last year's daily average of 176 million , and 145 companies gaining while 143 dropped. (Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng and Peroshni Govender; Editing by Stella Mapenzauswa)

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