Six key events troubling investors

South Africans wanting to protect or grow their investments should pay close attention to six key events in the short term that are likely to have an impact on investors’ sentiment, according to Sanlam’s Alwyn van der Merwe.

Van der Merwe, who is director of investments at Sanlam Private Wealth, said on Monday investors live in uncertain times and should respect the risk associated with macro uncertainty.

“We are experiencing a lot of events that some people call Black Swan events, as they are tough to forecast,” he told Fin24.

“In the last 18 months, we have seen the collapse in the oil price, the rise in nationalism, Brexit, Donald Trump, and a coup attempt in Turkey. All these things have a major impact on the mood of investors.”

South Africa’s financial markets operate within a low-growth environment as well as what some commenters believe is the end of the post-Apartheid era, which has given rise to political instability and social unrest.

Yet, the local equity market has not been as volatile on average as could expected in such times, but has tracked sideways, according to Van der Merwe.

Going forward, he said investors should pay special attention to the below key events. He then offers ways to protect investor wealth if these events should occur.

The key events are:

1. Mini Budget: Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan will table Treasury’s mini budget on Wednesday. The market will look for fiscal discipline and business-friendly policies, said Van der Merwe.

2. Prexit: The exit of Pravin Gordhan as Finance minister would be a negative for investor confidence, said Van der Merwe. Gordhan’s role hangs in the balance ahead of his November 2 court appearance on controversial charges of fraud relating to the early retirement of a Sars executive.

Leaders from across the spectrum – including the ANC – have voiced concern over the charges, which they believe are politically motivated.

“We would have a negative equity market response, government bond yields are likely to kick higher and it is likely put the current rand strength in reverse,” said Van der Merwe.

3. Ratings downgrade: Standard & Poor’s official review on December 2 could see the country’s sovereign credit rating downgraded to junk status, as it is currently only one level above the non-investment grade. S&P warned early this year that political strife could affect its rating.

“Although many commentators are of the opinion that this event is ’priced’ in, expect a negative knee-jerk reaction if SA foreign debt rating is downwardly adjusted” said Van der Merwe.

4. US presidential elections: The mere fact that Donald Trump is the Republican nominee is of great concern, said Van der Merwe. The market does not favour Trump in the slightest, as he brings uncertainty and unorthodox behaviour. If the dissatisfied American electorate succeed in their protest against the political system by electing Trump, markets around the world would quake.

5. Brexit negotiations: Global markets will constantly react to the UK’s process of exiting the European Union. Van der Merwe said investors should constantly be vigilant how this process unfolds.

6. Global monetary policy: Low interest rates in the US, will gradually start increasing. Currently South Africa is a beneficiary for the international hunt for yield. That is likely to change when investors respond to higher rates globally. “Interest rates can’t remain artificially low forever,” said Van der Merwe. “You will see the first salvo from US.”

Taking into consideration these key events, Van der Merwe offered two guidelines that will help investors navigate these possible bumps.

1. Diversification: Make sure your portfolio is properly diversified, both geographically and through asset classes. Geographically, ensure you are invested in South Africa and offshore. With asset classes, don’t have all your investment in one class and ensure you have a mix of asset classes that matches your risk profile.

2. Long term investment horizon: One thing that protects your money is if you buy assets at the rightvalue or price. You must believe that the business you invest in will be in existence in the future and be careful where the market is overly optimistic. The focus should be on shares that offer value, yet the business models must stand the test of time.

By Matthew le Cordeur for Fin24


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