I must have heard celebratory ululations when Pfizer announced that they have arrived at a Covid vaccine. News had been long awaited as this is seen as the best solution of creating herd immunity and getting the global economy operating in full swing.
These ululations came from all over the show… ZAR strength, lowering bond yields and soaring equity markets. It felt like an awakening of sorts.
Although there is still the challenge of inoculating millions of people around the world, the existence of the vaccine has brought about much relief to one of the biggest crises my generation has had to live through.
The final analysis of the Phase 3 trial of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine shows it was 95% effective in preventing infections, even in older adults, and caused no serious safety concerns. The challenges that have been overcome by researchers and pharmaceuticals have been momentous, considering that it takes years if not decades to perfect a new vaccine. Although there are still some concerns around how long the vaccine will last after inoculation. This will inform how long we need to keep wearing masks, keep a social distance, continue of testing and monitor contact tracing.
For now, we ululate at this incredible feat and have hope that we will soon be out of this dark tunnel!
More good news (at least from an emerging markets perspective) came with Joe Biden’s victory of US election. The sentiment is that Biden will create a ‘trade friendly’ political environment which would lead to the deployment of capital to emerging markets. Indeed, on the back of his victory, we saw an influx of foreign cash into local bonds which resulted in the strengthening of the ZAR. The party hasn’t even started with Biden due to be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States in January 2021.
Albeit from a low base, 3rd quarter (quarter-on-quarter) South African GDP printed at a staggering + 66.1%. This however, led to the re-adjustment of SA’s GDP forecasted contraction from - 8.5% to - 7.5% for the year 2020. We may not be out of the woods yet, but it looks as though we are moving in the right direction.
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni tabled the 2020 Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) that provided a five-year fiscal consolidation trajectory that promotes economic growth while keeping debt in check.
Soon after that, Moody's and Fitch Ratings agencies both downgraded South Africa’s debt further into junk status while S&P Global is maintaining both its rating and stable outlook on the country. Moody’s reasoning behind the downgrade is the expected weakening in South Africa’s fiscal strength over the medium term. They are also maintaining a negative outlook due to SA’s debt burden and the fact that the debt affordability could deteriorate more than their currently projects.
The Finance Minister didn’t take it well and decided to take his frustrations to Twitter. In his own words – “There is something called the Queensbury Rule. You do not continue to beat somebody who is on his knees. You do not. It is the rule. Civilized people abide by that rule in business, sports and politics. Ratings agencies should treat us the same way. During a global crisis.”
Our very own Elon Musk surpasses Bill Gates to become the second-richest person in the world. Jeff Bezos still holds the number one spot.
Lewis Hamilton sets the record for the highest number of F1 race wins (currently at 95) and tied Schumacher’s record for the most world championships in F1, with seven in total.
Michael ‘Iron Mike’ Tyson returned to boxing at age 54. His comeback fight ended with draw against 51-year-old Roy Jones Jr.
Football legend Diego Maradona, for some the best footballer of all time, died at the age of 60 due to a heart attack in his home in Tigre.
It’s been a massive year!