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3 things markets are watching closely as SA heads to the polls

May 08 2019 07:00
Fin24

So you're ready to make your mark, but is that enough to turn the economy around? Here are three things markets will be keeping an eye on as the nation heads to the polls.

1. Will a hefty ANC win shore up support for Ramaphosa's economic policy?

The ANC is expected to win an outright majority of votes on Wednesday, according to most polls, which would give it another majority of seats in the National Assembly.

Some investors and analysts have been arguing that a big win for the ruling party would be the best outcome for the SA economy. 

According to the UBS Group, the ANC winning between 55% and 60% of the vote on Wednesday could give a boost to the JSE. Colin Coleman, head of sub-Saharan Africa at Goldman Sachs, meanwhile, told Bloomberg in an interview that a decisive win for Cyril Ramaphosa would give him the "political space to implement his modernisation agenda", including fixing debt-laden state-owned enterprises. 

The official election results, expected on Saturday, will put to the test the theory that a strong mandate for Ramaphosa will help him shore up his position while freeing him up to implement economic reforms. 

For the opposition DA this theory is naïve at best. In a letter to the Economist, which had cautiously endorsed Ramaphosa, the party's chief whip John Steenhuizen called the ANC a "criminal syndicate" that would lead to SA's ruin. The DA's former leader and retiring Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille, meanwhile, tweeted that a vote for the ANC was a vote for the "continuation of patronage politics". 

2. What will Moody's do?

Ratings agency Moody's is the last of the big three international rating agencies to not have downgraded South Africa's sovereign credit rating to non-investment grade or junk. Moody's skipped its last two assessments of South Africa, but is widely expected to make an announcement after the elections. 

The agency has warned about SA's sovereign debt repayments, saying the country is en route to spending R1 out of every R7.5 in government revenue on sovereign debt interest repayments by 2020. This picture worsens when contingent liabilities are taken into account.

If Moody's downgrades SA to sub-investment grade in the aftermath of Wednesday's election, the country will automatically be ejected from the Citi World Government Bond Index, forcing asset managers to sell billions of rands' worth of SA bonds. This would strike an immediate blow against investor sentiment and cause the rand to fall.

In addition, SA's borrowing would become even more expensive as its credit ratings fall, meaning the country would be spending a larger proportion of revenue on debt repayments.

3. How will the rand react?

The local currency was fairly stable on Tuesday, trading at R14.44 at the close of local markets.

A "solid" win for Ramaphosa would likely give it a boost, according to Peregrine Treasury Solutions corporate treasury manager Bianca Botes.

"The rand is likely to gain some momentum to target the R13.50/$ level in the period immediately following the election. In fact, if the ANC secures a two thirds majority win, we could be in for a second Ramaphoria rally – Ramaphoria 2.1, if you like," Botes said earlier in the week. 

If the ANC were to fare poorly, the local currency could fall, as the market fears a wounded ANC limping into some type of coalition with the EFF.

The most immediate impact of a weaker rand would be an increase in fuel prices, while a strengthening rand would help keep fuel prices lower, depending on the international oil price. 

Find everything you need to know about the 2019 National and Provincial Government Elections at our News24 Elections site, including the latest news and detailed, interactive maps for how South Africa has voted over the past 3 elections. Make sure your News24 app is updated to access all our elections coverage in one place. 

elections 2019

moody’s  |  elections 2019  |  economy  |  markets
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