Rand set to end Q1 more than 10% stronger against the dollar

Investors who chose South Africa as a haven in a stormy first quarter have been rewarded with some of the best currency, equity and bond returns in emerging markets.

While the start of monetary policy tightening in the US and war in Ukraine spurred weakness for most risk assets, the newsflow favored South Africa. Commodity prices have soared, boosting the Johannesburg stock market and the local currency.

The rand, typically a casualty in times of fragile sentiment, is set to end the quarter more than 10% stronger against the greenback, its strongest start to the year since Bloomberg began tracking the pair in 1993.

That performance ranks it among the top two in emerging markets and in the top four globally.

Africa’s most industrialized economy attracted investors during the first quarter because of the surge in commodity prices and its distance from the conflict in Europe, said Lester Davids, a strategist at Unum Capital in Johannesburg.

“Higher commodity prices have benefited South Africa’s trade balance, and the geopolitical tensions have seen funds flow out of Russia and into other parts of emerging markets, with South Africa also being a beneficiary of the re-allocation,” he said.

Here’s are how other assets have fared:

Appealing Equities

As of Wednesday’s close, South Africa’s benchmark stock index had advanced 12% in dollar terms, its best three-month performance since December 2020 and the strongest first-quarter in 16 years.

Gold miners have been among the biggest contributors to the gains as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine spurred demand for bullion. Coal miner Thungela Resources Ltd set the fastest pace, more than doubling as the war prompted a scramble for alternative supplies of the fuel.

Bank stocks have risen to all-time highs, with a sector index advancing for an eighth successive quarter as the outlook for rising interest rates and a strengthening rand attract buyers.

Outperforming Bonds

The war in Ukraine has upended bond markets and, while yields in South Africa did rise, the debt has remained attractive, thanks to inflation remaining within the central bank’s target range.

South Africa’s local-currency bonds are the second best-performing in emerging markets this quarter with returns of 13% in dollar terms, compared with an average drop of 2.4% among peers.

Read: Bad news for jobs in South Africa: Nedbank

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Rand set to end Q1 more than 10% stronger against the dollar