INTERNATIONAL MARKETS – GLOBAL TENSIONS WEIGH ON MARKETS

June once again saw volatile trade around the globe amid continued fears about a possible trade war between the US and China as well as its other major trading partners in Europe and North America.

Last week, China vowed to match any further tariffs that might be raised by the US, while Europe warned of a possible global recession if the US continues down its current path. Markets saw a flight to safety in the US, whilst emerging markets (EMs), including South Africa (SA), remained under pressure for most of the month. Overall, the majority of major global markets closed lower month on month as the trade policy of US President Donald Trump took its toll on confidence levels around the world.

US equities advanced slightly and despite the Dow slipping by 0.6% month on month (-1.8% year to date), the S&P 500 advanced by 0.5% month on month (-1.7% year to date) and the tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 0.9% (+8.8% year to date).

A European Union (EU) deal on migration reached last week, mitigated some political risk hanging over the single-currency bloc by strengthening the leader-ship position of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and removing concerns of a possible fresh election in Germany – the EU’s biggest economy. Germany’s Dax dropped 2.4% month on month (-4.7% year to date), and France’s CAC declined by 1.4% month on month (+0.2% year to date) while, in the UK, the FTSE 100 closed 0.5% lower month on month (-0.7% YTD).

Following a lacklustre month, China’s markets rallied in the last days of June. as the country eased foreign investment curbs on several sectors (banking, auto-mobiles, heavy industry and agriculture).

Despite this move, sentiment continued to be ham-strung by trade war concerns and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 5.0% month on month (-3.2% year to date), while the Shanghai Composite Index, one of the worst-performing major indices globally this year, posted its worst monthly performance since 2016 as it dropped 8.0% month on month (-13.9% year to date). Initial US tariffs on Chinese goods valued at $34bn will take effect on 6 July with markets remaining on the back foot as concern mounted that it will lead to more retaliation (even escalation) from China.

LOCAL MARKETS – CURRENCY SLIDES, JSE IMPROVES

The rand lost significant ground (-8.1% month on month) in June. This was on the back of a rampant US dollar, negative sentiment about emerging markets and weak domestic economic data, especially the poor growth figure for the first quarter of the year. The JSE, however, ended June on a positive note as the FTSE JSE All Share Index gained 2.6% month on month (down 3.2% year to date).

Financial shares felt the most pressure with the FINI-15 dropping 2.8% month on month (-9.7% year to date), while industrials closed 4.6% higher than in May (-4.7% year to date). Resource shares performed well as a rally in some commodity prices boosted the Resi-10 to end June 6.4% better than the previous month. This index is now up an impressive 16.1% year to date. While market-heavyweight commodity companies, including BHP Billiton and Anglo American posted robust monthly gains of 7.4% and 1.6%, respectively, industrial companies such as British American Tobacco and Naspers jumped by 6.7% and 15.2% month on month, respectively, lifting the local bourse.

Namibian financial services company, Trustco Group Holdings was June’s best-performing share, gaining 42.9% month on month. Investment Group, Brait SE was the second-best performer (+16.6% month on month) despite reporting a R10.15bn loss for the 2018 financial year (2017: R16.03bn loss) as it strug-gled to make headway into the UK market. Steinhoff International climbed 15.2% in June, albeit from a low base and despite reporting a rise in its loss per share last week. Most of this share-price increase was on the back of news that the firm had secured support for its restructuring plans from the majority of its key creditors. The reports resulted in the share surging 13% higher at R1.29 on 7 June, but gains were capped as it became evident that the business remains in a very difficult financial situation.

Battery and automotive components maker, Metair (-22.5% month on month), was June’s worst-performing share. In second spot, Novus Holdings recorded a decline of 16.8%. The print and packaging group closed a plant and decommissioned printing presses after Media24 renegotiated its printing agreement with the company. Real estate Group Delta Property Fund (-16.7% month on month) was in third place.

Murray & Roberts Holdings (M&R), Trustco (following its impressive performance in June) and Allied Electronics (Altron) are the best-performing shares year to date, recording share price gains of 44.6%, 34.8% and 28.3%, respectively. Despite recording a 15.2% month on month gain in June, Steinhoff remained the worst-performing share year to date, down 72.3%. Steinhoff is followed by Niveus Investments (-65.0% year to date) and Fortress REIT (-64.3% year to date) in third spot.

GDP plummeted 2.2% in the first quarter of 2018 (vs a 3.1% quarter on quarter increase in the fourth quarter of 2017), according to Stats SA. Year on year, GDP grew 0.8%. The biggest negative contributors to the first quarter number were the agriculture, mining and manufacturing industries.

The continued poor economic performance was one of the issues raised at an extraordinary meeting of the World Economic Forum held in Johannesburg towards the end of the month. Business Day report-ed that the WEF’s Klaus Schwab says the SA brand has suffered in the Zuma era. “The country was not considered in the right terms anymore. There is a great potential to have access to a larger African market but growth is too low. Accelerated economic growth is absolutely necessary to solve all the issues like education, healthcare and job creation,” the newspaper reported.

May consumer price inflation (CPI) surprised on the downside coming in at 4.4%year on year (vs April’s 4.5%), despite April’s VAT hike. Most of the increase was due to higher alcohol, tobacco and fuel prices. With local consumers under pressure from all fronts, April retail sales data also disappointed as growth contracted 1.2% year on year, vs March’s 0.2% |decline and 1.4% growth in February. Bloomberg writes that the latest data reflects the slowest growth in 15 months. Meanwhile, private-sector credit growth also decelerated to 4.6% year on year in May – its slowest pace since September 2010, according to SA Reserve Bank data.

On the political front, public hearings on the amend-ment of Section 25 of the Constitution, in order to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation, kicked off in June giving citizens the opportunity to air their views on the highly contentious issue.

Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi gazetted the bill detailing an ambitious plan to roll out universal health care through a National Health Insurance (NHI), while Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe unveiled a revamped third Mining Charter.

Wheels24 reported that domestic sales figures for new vehicle exceeded industry expectations in June. New vehicle sales at 46 678 units show an improve-ment of 1 346 vehicles (3.0%) from the 45 332 vehicles sold in June 2017. Overall, export vehicle sales at 26 790 vehicles reflect a decline of 4 805 units (-15.2%) compared to the 31 595 vehicles
exported in June last year