SA assets become unexpected haven for foreign buyers

Even as investors shed most of their riskier holdings after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
People from a school group look at an electronic screen with stock index figures at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). Image: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

South African assets are finding favour among foreign buyers even as investors shed most of their riskier holdings after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The rand has shown resilience this month despite its tag as a proxy currency for emerging-market sentiment, while money from non-residents has been pouring into South Africa’s bonds and stocks in recent days.

The country’s currency is one of just five among 24 developing-nations that has advanced against the dollar in March, with Colombia’s peso posting the biggest gains among the group.

“Risk off is in full swing,” said Cristian Maggio, the London-based head of portfolio strategy at TD Securities. “While I would normally look at the rand as one casualty of the general mood, in this case we can certainly say that its distance from the conflict is shielding it from the worst.”

Here are how other South African assets have been performing:

Chasing yields

Rand-bonds are being bought up even as emerging market debt more generally has been hard hit in the selloff sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The debt of Africa’s most industrialised economy offers some of the highest real yields among peers, attracting buyers seeking to reposition risk.

Non-residents on Monday bought the most South African debt on a net basis in six weeks, based on settled trades data reported to the JSE, which may differ from transactions and/or daily flows.

Inflows from foreign buyers this year stand at about R20.7 billion ($1.35 billion) based on the JSE’s data and Bloomberg calculations.

Yields on benchmark bonds rose for a third day on Tuesday, climbing 26 basis points to 10.62% by 12:32 p.m. in Johannesburg. That’s the highest since April 2020.

South Africa’s stock market is also outperforming, returning 3.1% in dollar terms this year compared with a 10% drop for the MSCI Emerging Markets Index.

Non-residents were net buyers of the country’s stocks for a ninth day on Monday, the longest buying streak since December 2020, according to JSE Ltd. data.

The market has been buoyed by its exposure to the miners, which have benefited from soaring metals prices as importers steer clear of Russian products, and to precious metals stocks — a haven in times of volatility.

Foreign inflows since the beginning of the year have now reached R20.76 billion.

© 2022 Bloomberg

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