Friday, 13 January 2017


The main concern in the market about yesterday’s somewhat unexpected weak numbers from Woolworths is that they don’t seem to have been unexpected for some shareholders. The price started falling about a week ago, and so cries of “insider trading” are going up. While the practice is deplorable and in fact illegal, it does happen, and old hands in this business will be spending more time looking for the opportunities created by the price move than in joining the hunt for the perpetrators. The fact is that the deal system records are now so comprehensive that the accounts involved will be swiftly identified. Less swift, however, will be the process that follows. Somehow these thangs are always complicated!
The other fallout from the results is that they are being taken as a sign that most retailers are finding it hard to make money. This is despite the steady stream of other indicators which can in certain lights be taken as showing signs of a recovery. The simplest of these are of course share prices and so far this month some very tidy gains are being chalked up.  The pitfall for the bulls however is that industrial and financial company earnings have been declining and unless a massive turnaround emerges in the December year-end results (for which of course the books are now closed) the headlines will begin to shriek about negative growth. But buyers are known to be able to look far ahead right through noise like that.
And so to the season of university registration and folk who are not yet even students are already looking forward to participating in protests and disruptions. Everyone else particularly taxpayers and other elitist capitalists are very weary of this nonsense and patience has already worn thin. The indignant warrior who converted the money spent by the ANC for their 105th birthday celebrations into potential university fee payments would be shocked to hear that actually a bus ride to the city, a T-shirt , a large chunk of lurid cake and a stiff drink for several thousand sounds like money well spent. At least it was quickly gone and not supporting an ungrateful innumerate illiterate for months.  
It will be interesting to see how many official delegates we taxpayers will be paying for to attend the snowy talk shop in Davos next week. Whatever else they managed to do there last year, the world’s economic brains-boxes haven’t noticeably improved things for the rest of us since then. With all the hot air that comes out of these gatherings one could almost believe in global warming. This year though some people will leave early – if even to pretend they have cracked the nod to attend the Trump presidential inauguration.
The US president-elect is already very entertaining to watch in action. He is proving to be just as worryingly unconventional as many feared. He shows scant regard for how things “are done in Washington” and is becoming adept at using the internet to speak directly to his audience, bypassing the filtering and interpretation processes of the usual channels. The “main stream media” are livid and pounce on the inevitable mistakes and inconsistencies in his pronouncements. His fans however love it, since it shows that he is a real person! Unfortunately, though he has so far shown no sign of shrinking the size, costs and interventions of government. For a state that has debt of almost $20 trillion one would have hoped that a business man would be doing something about balancing the budget. Maybe in the end, Trump won’t be all that different?
Oh and it seems that Slovakian Maros Kolpak,was a goalkeeper in the second division of the German handball league who managed several years ago to get a European court to allow him to play in Germany after his visa expired. In some convoluted way, this ruling enables the selectors to drop on-form South African born cricketers from the Proteas test side. Really, politicians should get right away from sport. Who are all those suits filling the plush padded seats at Wanderers?  But the good news I am told is that so far this year the ‘bokke have not yet lost a game.
James Greener
Friday 13th January 2017