Last month, South African (SA) stocks added to a record-breaking streak of consecutive monthly gains stretching back to October 2020 (FTSE/JSE Capped SWIX +2.9% MoM). May was a great month for domestically focussed companies with the local banks, insurers, and retailers all up over 10% MoM in aggregate. The miners, which have been responsible for around half of the local market’s returns in the year leading up to this month, faltered in May (-1.5% MoM) and were a drag on performance despite a good showing from the gold miners (+19% MoM) and Glencore (+8% MoM). Naspers and Prosus also detracted from the local market performance in May (-8% MoM in aggregate), struggling to overcome a negative month for their core underlying investment, Tencent (-0.4% MoM in Hong Kong dollar terms), and a strong currency headwind in a month where the rand was the best-performing major currency against the US dollar (+5.5% MoM).
Despite the strong local currency, two index heavyweights with predominantly offshore earnings, Richemont and Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), were both able to deliver positive MoM rand returns (up 11% and 1.3% MoM, respectively) as markets responded positively to their respective earnings releases. Luxury goods retailer, Richemont, which typically relies on Chinese tourists for a quarter of its revenue was, in the absence of international travel, able to convert most of those purchases into sales in the domestic market for Chinese customers and was able to grow revenue in its critical jewellery division, despite the pandemic. Global brewer, AB InBev delivered results revealing that 1Q21 volumes in the Americas (c. 75% of earnings) were ahead of pre-pandemic levels and profits in the lucrative North American region showed robust growth.
Other notable earnings from May included Raubex (+25% MoM), which reported 68% growth in its secured order book (to R17bn) and a R20bn project pipeline, and Mr Price (+28% MoM), which comfortably beat expectations with a strong second-half performance that included market share gains, increased retail sales volumes, and lower markdowns.
Economic data during the month included a 3.7% MoM decline in March seasonally adjusted retail sales (relative to expectations of a slight increase), and a 4.4% YoY gain in inflation as base effects from the initial pandemic lockdowns took hold. Higher inflation is likely to be transitory and still within the SA Reserve Bank’s (SARB’s) 3%-6% target range and, as such, the SARB voted unanimously to keep rates on hold (in-line with expectations).