SA breaks jinx as bonds dodge emerging-market losses

It will take more than a bit of trade tension to derail South Africa’s bonds.

While the average benchmark bond in emerging markets has handed investors a loss of 0.8% this month, the country’s sovereign debt has given a total return of 1.9%, the most among 25 developing nations tracked by the Bloomberg Barclays Global EM Local Currency Government Universal Index.

Strategist Per Hammarlund of SEB AB in Stockholm and trader Alvin Chawasema of Sasfin Securities in Johannesburg say this month’s election results have removed a key idiosyncratic risk, pushing bears to unwind bets. The ANC secured a victory with a 57.5% margin, giving President Cyril Ramaphosa enough room to pursue a reformist agenda.

''Our bonds, especially the longer-dated ones, had quite a bit of risk priced in them and this is unwinding post-election,'' said Chawasema, a fixed-income trader at Sasfin. ''If the cabinet has the right mix we can see more gains.''

Best to worst

The rally in South African bonds is a departure from the trend in recent years when a sell-off elsewhere in the developing world quickly spread to South Africa. In 2018, the woes of Turkey and Argentina pushed investors to unload their rand-denominated holdings, given the country’s reputation as a proxy for emerging-market risk.

Yields on the benchmark 2026 securities have fallen to a one-year low, with a drop of 14 basis points this month. The bonds traded at 8.41% by 11:37 in Johannesburg.

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