The JSE opened marginally higher on Tuesday in lacklustre trade ahead of the Reserve Bank's interest rate decision later in the day.
The market was still looking for direction amid a marginal decline on the Dow on Monday, with Asian markets mixed. The Nikkei 225 was down 0.55% and the Hang Seng added 0.20%.
The Dow lost ground on a weaker performance from McDonald's, despite beating expectations. Qualcomm plunged 12% after Apple filed a suit against the company.
The dollar remains on the back foot with a weakening bias towards the euro and other major currencies. This is expected to continue until President Donald Trump provides more detail on his policies. His protectionist stance in his inauguration speech is also of concern to investors.
"Traders were concerned that the protectionist policies under Trump in a bid to 'make America great again' would have unintended consequences," Nedbank Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB) analysts said.
US treasuries have firmed since the beginning of 2017, an indication that investors are unconvinced that the fiscal stimulus and growth plans mooted in Trump's election campaign will come to fruition.
Spot gold was slightly lower at about $1,215/oz and platinum was flat at $980/oz.
The Reserve Bank is expected to keep rates unchanged.
Momentum SP Reid analysts said the ultimate driver of near-term market performance continued to be the markets interpretation of the new US president's policies. "The protectionist element continued to unnerve many market participants," Momentum said.
At 9.41am the all share was 0.26% higher at 53,179.30 points and the blue-chip top 40 added 0.24%. General retailers added 0.83%, resources 0.74% and platinums 0.67%. Banks dropped 0.70%.
BHP Billiton rose 1.03% to R246.50.
Sasol lifted 0.63% to R431.21.
Kumba Iron Ore rose 2.45% to R170.
Among gold stocks, Sibanye rose 1.97% to R29.56.
Impala Platinum was up 2.71% to R52.38.
Barclays Africa shed 0.99% and FirstRand was 0.98% off at R52.29, among banks.
The Foschini Group rose 1.58% to R163.61, Truworths climbed 1.05% to R81.96 and Spar rebounded 1.21% to R197.97.
Among construction shares, Group Five retreated 3.33% to R24.06 and Aveng was 2.81% lower at R7.26.
Astral Foods lifted 2.18% to R152.77.
Clover Industries was up 1.09% at R17.69.