Friday, 26 January 2018


The regular trek through the thicket of sometimes interesting price charts reveals that although the US share markets are amazingly strong (something President Trump is eager to talk about) the US dollar is not. Indubitably these effects are related and mute the share and commodity price rises for non-dollar players. Who and why are people selling the USD? Is there a real signal here or will it soon get swallowed up as a “correction”?
One of those statistics that sometimes creeps up on you is doing some very interesting creeping. For the first time in ages the value of South Africa’s exports in the past 12 months is very nearly the value of our imports. The general rule of thumb is that importing less than one exports is a good thing and the nation last enjoyed a protracted spell of this pleasant experience around the beginning of the millennium. The kicker in these latest figures is that it is the exports that are rising while imports are static. What a wonderful gift for president in waiting, Cyril Ramaphosa.
A hair-raising view of the future is doing the rounds on the internet. It assures readers that computer software is so rapidly developing and acquiring skills indistinguishable from bright and educated humans that numerous professions are so much under threat that youth are already shying away from becoming lawyers for example. Allegedly “you can get legal advice (so far for more or less basic stuff) within seconds, with 90% accuracy, compared with 70% accuracy by humans. “ 
Fortunately for our local legal eagles there is still a great deal of work in SA which is a long way from being basic stuff. Like keeping large numbers of politicians, bureaucrats and executives of businesses both private and state-owned from getting their just desserts. In fact, Christmas time just never ends for the nation’s lawyers. Meeting rooms in parliament and government buildings are stuffed with probes and commissions and inquiries trying to discover who stole how much from which state bank account. Every second newspaper story tells of a state employee suffering from total memory loss while taking cover behind a costly legal team. Courts around the land are filled with shifty individuals denying everything and awaiting the cue from the begowned barrister to burst into crocodile tears.  But we ought not begrudge our LLBs from earning their living. It has taken years of study and experience to attain their status. And it’s a tough job. Just this week Social Development Minister Bathabile asked counsel to define “a meeting”, presumably to enable her to deny having ever attended one. It seems that, since the unexpected and wholly unscripted defeat of the Zuma faction at the big ANC conference a month ago, the comrades are becoming far less friendly to each other. The phrase “throwing people under a bus” is in danger of becoming overused.
It’s interesting to read that there is a law in Holland which permits investors who have suffered losses presumably due to large share prices declines to try to recover their money from the company in which they had shares. An outfit named The Deminor Group are keen to act on behalf of shareholders in Steinhof. This company’s share price took a big hit when senior executives and board members apparently admitted they had no idea what was happening in the business and furthermore they were not there and it was not them. More “lawyering up” as the saying goes.
Another creeper is the Super Rugby Season which is now nearly upon us. Thankfully it has been trimmed back to 15 teams but still retains the messy “conference” tournament structure. It’s been difficult to give the local teams (Cheetahs & Kings) that were bundled off to the European Pro 14 competition last spring all the attention they deserve. Maybe because it’s not really rugby season. Meanwhile the delightfully described “dead rubber” cricket test series is trying to ignite interest in the final match at The Wanderers. Old Hiltonian Lungi Ngidi is finding the going a little tough as it’s certain that the Indians have told their analysts to scan the data and visuals for chinks in his armour.
James Greener
Friday 26th January 2018