We don’t need to tell you 2018 was rough for equity investors, particularly the last four months. Only 2 African exchanges managed to buck the global trend, as judged by this table of performance of main indices for investors looking for USD returns, although four had a positive return for local currency investors.
In some of the exchanges, overall market performance was better for local investors, since the strong US dollar over the year as the Federal Reserve hiked rates helped depress returns of the stock exchange indices when rebased into US dollars in addition to pushing down prices as global investors turned away from frontier markets.
The soaraway success indices were the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, where the index soared by 50.4% in US$ over the year, and nearby Malawi Stock Exchange, where it climbed 22.2%. The ZSE local index shows a US$ return but currency is not liquid and its value questionable, price rises on the ZSE have been inflated as many domestic investors feel the bourse provides part protection against inflation or currency decline.
Stock Exchange of Mauritius was close to breakeven, with a US based decline of 0.30%.
This was better than a drop of 6.20% in the S&P 500 index over the year, including more than 19% from its high in September 2018 and the worst December since 1931 when it fell 14.5% during the Great Depression.
Markets have trended more positive since the start of 2019, with world eyes on the Fed and how fast it raises a key interest rate, with a meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee due 29-30 January, global trade as the US-China trade war discussions continue, and economic data from Europe and China.
Close to the bottom of the chart is the JSE FTSE All Share Index, with a fall of 27.9% to US dollar investors, compared to a fall of 11.4% to investors focused on ZAR returns.