Big problems ahead for rich South Africans

 ·1 Apr 2024

Consumer sentiment in South Africa is down, and stubbornly high interest rates and bracket creep could limit any pick-up in consumer spending this year.

Several data points have highlighted the challenging environment facing South African.

Despite increasing slightly, the FNB and BER Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) is still at a negative 15 points for Q1 2024.

There was improved sentiment amongst the high-income segment (those who earn over R20,000 per month), but confidence in the low- and middle-income segments remained downbeat.

Although the CCI showed that high-income South Africans are feeling more optimistic, data from Eighty20 showed that this income group is still feeling the pain of high interest rates on their mortgages.

According to the Consumer Pulse report by Momentum Investments, the income position of consumers may improve in the next few months, with inflation expected to average 5.4% IN 2024.

“Easing inflation will likely lead to higher consumer disposable income levels and higher real wage growth,” Momentum said.

“Furthermore, the announced increase in grants and the higher national minimum wage rate will be supportive of income levels.”

“However, the higher tax burden (bracket creep) announced in the 2024 Budget Review may dampen the prospects for higher-income consumers.

Possible interest rate cuts in the second half of 2024, the noticeable increase in grants and further employment opportunities through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) could provide some relief for consumers in 2024 and boost household consumption expenditure.

“However, we note that lingering inflation risks and the possibility of a delayed and shallower interest rate cutting cycle, among other factors, could limit the consumer spending pick up,” Momentum said.

“We expect household consumption expenditure to grow by 1.2% year-on-year (y/y) in 2024 (0.7% y/y in 2023) and lift slightly to 1.5% y/y in 2025.

Although this should support economic growth, it will be limited. Economists expect GDP growth of just above 1% in 2024.

Read: This is how much South Africa’s ‘Big Four’ banks are worth to the government

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