Stock investors bracing for Budget 2018 impact

2018-02-21 12:51 - Neo Khanyile, Bloomberg

Johannesburg - Stock investors are bracing for the impact Wednesday’s budget will have on their portfolios as Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba seeks ways to raise revenue and avert further ratings downgrades.

Gigaba will present plans aimed at narrowing a R50.8bn gap in the finances without endangering a fragile recovery. Along with various other revenue measures, he needs to produce a “needle mover", such as a 1 percentage-point increase in value-added tax (VAT), said Adrian Saville, chief strategist at Canon Asset Management in Johannesburg.

“The reality is there is a large hole that has to be filled in what up until now has been a very anemic economic growth environment,” Saville said.

A VAT increase would have a negative impact on equities, he said. Others took the view that a budget that succeeded in demonstrating good economic management could prove positive for some stock sectors.

South Africa could collect as much R22bn by increasing VAT to 15% from 14%, PwC estimates. This step would help the budget achieve a path of consolidation, reducing the likelihood of a credit ratings downgrade by Moody’s Investors Service, which would protect sentiment toward the rand, Gina Schoeman, South African economist at Citigroup Global Markets, said by phone from Johannesburg.

This boost for inflation would likely offset the impact of a VAT hike on prices.

How SA stocks could fare after Wednesday’s budget:

Banks, retailers

Banks, as proxies for the economy, will benefit from improved sentiment if Moody’s doesn’t downgrade the country’s sovereign debt and the VAT increase leads to accelerated growth, said Alec Schoeman, managing director at Citigroup Global Markets in Johannesburg.


“Along with banks, certain retailers, especially those with a credit element, certainly do act like bond proxies at times. Consumer industrials overall, in terms of economic read-through, would certainly also feed through in there, along with real estate investment trusts," he said.


Rand hedges

Stocks that prosper in times of rand weakness could fare less well, Alec Schoeman said.

“If it’s a good budget and the rand firms, clearly the dual-listed names with the bulk of their earnings offshore are going to be the flipside to the coin that the domestics are benefiting (from),” he said.

These include names such as British American Tobacco [JSE:BTI], Mediclinic International [JSE:MEI] and some of the UK and South Africa-listed property companies.

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