Morgan Stanley says it’s time to take a risk on South African stocks

There are dark clouds aplenty casting shadows over South Africa’s economy and its equity market.

But Morgan Stanley argues that the potential rewards for investors mean the country’s stocks are worth the risks.

South Africa benefits from its relatively high trade with Asia and is the country in eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa that’s most closely linked to China, which is seen as leading a rebound in emerging markets this year, Morgan Stanley analysts Marina Zavolock, Regiane Yamanari and Mary Curtis said in a report.

“China’s recovery should filter through to South Africa,” the analysts wrote as they cited factors behind a decision to upgrade their recommendation on the country to overweight from equal-weight.

Stocks traded in Johannesburg have lagged behind their developing-market peers in 2019, partly reflecting an exit by overseas investors. Foreigners have been net sellers of about $2.3 billion in South African stocks this year up to 13 March, the most for this period since Bloomberg started tracking the data in 1998.

Economic readings have been dismal too; the latest was a slump in business confidence to the lowest in two years, recorded Wednesday.

Morgan Stanley says investors are turning more optimistic; a recent survey indicated that foreign equity investors are more likely to add South African stocks than reduce in the next six months.

While economic data remains weak, money managers’ expectations are already below consensus.

What’s more, elections on 8 May could mark a turning point for performance as President Cyril Ramaphosa looks to revive an economy damaged during predecessor Jacob Zuma’s scandal-marred rule.

“The general perception is that Cyril Ramaphosa needs a decisive victory to push through structural reforms and finally remove Zuma-aligned ministers from his cabinet,” economist Andrea Masia wrote.

“We agree that a strong victory would be beneficial, but do not believe that the gates of structural reform will suddenly open after the elections.”

 


Read: What could happen if South Africa is downgraded to junk at the end of March

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Morgan Stanley says it’s time to take a risk on South African stocks