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Botswana can breathe easy as US leads global growth

Publishing Date : 12 January, 2015

Author : VINCENT MATUMO


Botswana’s major export partner, United States has once again affirmed its position as the economic powerhouse of the globe, leading economic growth while Europe emerges as the global weak spot and China struggles to stabilise its growth.

The Chief Investment Officer at asset management firm, Afena Capital, Alphonse Ndzinge, in an interview with BusinessPost, shared the firm’s views on the domestic and global economic prospects, saying “the US economy has emerged as a growth leader, while the rest of the world economy is operating at a sub trend growth rate. The Eurozone  is the weak spot and China is still struggling to stabilise growth.”

As a major trading partner, the US revival as an economic powerhouse bodes well for Botswana and her exports. “The US has to deliver growth in 2015 and consensus upward revisions for growth suggest growing confidence that this will happen,” said Ndzinge.

The United States dollar appreciated by 13 percent in trade weighted terms in 2014 and there is “bullish sentiment driven by relative monetary policy dynamics between the US and the rest of the world. The US is intent on raising interest rates later this year while the Eurozone and Japan will be implementing further policy easing” The Rand depreciation against the Pula of about 2% in 2014 was muted by the weakness of other SDR currencies, particularly the Euro and Yen.

“Europe needs to get its much needed economic stimulus right because it will pull back global growth; non-commodity export emerging markets such as India and China still look encouraging.”

Despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s tireless cheerleading, economic indicators show that the gap between regular and temporary workers is only getting bigger under his deflation-busting economic programme dubbed “Abenomics”.

Meanwhile, on asset allocation, Ndzinge says: “Equities were in a corrective phase at the end of last year but we are increasingly bullish on risk assets, adding exposure to global equities. Particularly US, Europe and Japan.”

On currencies, he mentioned that: “the US dollar should maintain its strength with safe haven demand; the euro is oversold and could rebound, while there are still potential risks for major currency upheavals in 2015.”

With regard to global inflation and rates, they see, “Cheaper oil, lower inflation and monetary easing; a further drop in inflation expectations could spur central banks to become even more dovish this year.”

On commodities, Afena is of the view that “a steep fall in global commodity demand expectations in the past few months is the main factor driving the price declines; supply cuts are urgently needed to rebalance markets, especially in oil.”  

The growth of the domestic economy will however remain constrained by the power interruptions as a result of possible challenges at Morupule B power station as well as supply challenges emanating from South Africa’s power authority, Eskom, while drought subsequent caused Gaborone Dam to completely dry up, resulting in intermittent water rationing by the Water Utilities Corporation (WUC).

Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for Q3 of 2014, which stood at 5,4 percent year on year, was attributable to trade, Hotels and restaurants, Mining and business service sectors which all increased by 7.8, 7.4, and 6.9 respectively. The contribution to GDP by the Water and electricity sector, however, decreased by 57 percent.

Afena expects moderate global growth to drive the recovery of mining related exports and domestic GDP growth. Household consumption growth remains below trend with low real wage growth and high unemployment, currently estimated at 17.8%. The slowdown in fixed investment spending is one of their concerns for economic growth prospects this year. “The stimulus for fixed investment spending will be public sector driven spending as FDI levels remain low”.

Turning to price levels, domestic headline inflation has now remained comfortably within the Bank of Botswana objective range of 3-6% for the last 18 months. Afena expects this trend to continue in 2015 driven by stable prices for commodities, especially the main components of Transport, and Food & Non-Alcoholic beverages.

2015 will undoubtedly be another interesting year for capital markets both at home and abroad with many opportunities and risks for investors. Afena believes five themes will be the key to navigating the markets this year. They include: Whether the global economy can break out of its low growth trap; The impact of cheap oil on the global macro outlook; The prospects of a decent revival in euro area growth; A recovery for emerging markets recent underperformance; and whether US assets remain the investment of choice globally.
 

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