Friday, 31 July 2015


Despite some very wild share price swings in the last few weeks, the JSE’s All Share index total return for July is going to emerge very close to zero! Some short term traders and punters are going to dispute the news, but most investors will see little change in their valuations. This may change quite alarmingly by year end however, as a number of chickens appear to be searching for roosts.
Only properly trained economists believe that there is any real value or truth in the deluge of figures that swamp us every minute of the day. Other people have long doubted that China really was growing as fast as its leaders claimed, or that Greece (and many other countries besides) has any intention or ability to repays its debts. And then there’s all this talk of the USA raising interest rates and the European Central Bank indulging in a spot of quantitative easing (which is jargon-speak for minting cash that is used to buy near worthless IOUs from profligate governments).
It seems as if nobody needs or more importantly wants to own Rands at the moment.  The talking heads are offering complicated explanations for the plunging currency all of which boil down to sellers having to offer buyers more and more Mandela’s in return for a single one of their George Washington’s or Queen Elizabeth’s. This declining interest in possessing rands is double-sided as well. That is, locals are trying to get hold of foreign currency and foreigners have no need of runts as demand for our products declines and our immigration authorities have become rather unwelcoming. It’s all rather alarming, particularly as the communists who control our government seem to be either unaware of or content with developments.
There are many very sad illustrations of how times and fortunes change of which amongst the most poignant for South African share holders must be Anglo American. This one-time behemoth of the open outcry market in Diagonal Street, and other venues before that, is now no longer even in the top ten on the JSE ranked by market capitalisation. At R220bn it is way less than even half the value of either Glencore or BHP Billiton. This week Anglo’s CEO went on stage to explain what needed to be done by both him and the government to try and stem the rot. It’s not even certain that a huge and certainly unexpected surge in the prices of all the minerals it mines would help. This empire is declining. "O tempora o mores"
Poor old Number 1. How embarrassing and ignominious for him to have his very modest and quite tacky private swimming pool shown to the world. Yet another thing for his BRICs colleagues to snigger about. He really does choose his advisors poorly. This time it’s his architect who’s let him down, although the saving grace is that it was the taxpayers who got shocking value for money.
For centuries, opponents of the idea of a tunnel under the English Channel cited the problem of unwanted pests like rabid dogs and onion-draped French hawkers swarming onto the “sceptred isle”. No one predicted the astonishing scenes of desperate African refugees overwhelming the noticeably sparse number of French police at Calais. Despite claims of European solidarity in dealing with the problem, the Continental countries must be rather relieved to watch these poor souls disappearing down the tunnel.
Trite but true. Cricket is a really funny old game. But best not played in a place and time where the Monsoon is likely. Given a full 5 days of play Bangladesh would be rather tricky to subdue. And now what’s going on with The Ashes? Such massive changes of fortunes feel very odd. Surely there’s no FIFA-like match fixing likely?
James Greener
Friday 31st July 2015