For most of June and July this year, the rand was strengthening as international investors became more confident of the reforms which the Ramaphosa administration was implementing. Now the battle between Ramaphosa and the Public Protector has become sufficiently aggressive and dangerous to unnerve international investors – causing some of them to withdraw their funds from our government bonds with the result that the rand has fallen 7,5% in the last two weeks.
The yield on our R186 long bond has increased by 6,3% to 8,46%. Overseas investors are now willing to forgo this relatively high return because of the increased political risk in the country. Clearly, this trend is not good for South Africa or private investors. The fight within the ANC comes on top of the problems of financing Eskom and lower tax collections to indicate that the government deficit is probably going to widen substantially. Moody’s is under mounting pressure to follow the other ratings agencies and downgrade us to sub-investment.
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to ascertain exactly what is happening behind closed doors. We can only watch the markets, especially the rand and the yield on the R186 for clues – and right now the news on that front is not good. The markets are communicating that there is a chance that Ramaphosa might lose his position of power in the ANC – and if that happens then the economy and the stock market will be in dire straits.
A new concern has arisen with RMB’s John Cairn’s saying that there is a high probability (47%) that the rand will fall by as much as 30% or more once the US begins a new cycle of reducing rates over the next year – simply because it always does that when interest rates are falling in the US. Against this, it seems that the recent cut in rates in the US is just a “mid-term adjustment” and not the beginning of a new trend of lower rates. Read More