Cheers, Mr President. Finally some news we can use

Levelling up

“My fellow South Africans…. We have weathered a long and difficult storm. We have endured great hardship and suffered unbearable losses. But we have stood firm against this onslaught… A ray of light is visible on the horizon…”

Short version: Prez announces that effective from Tuesday we are on Coronavirus Lockdown Level 2™: cigarettes and alcohol are back on sale; family and friends may visit; travel bans within the country lifted; but don’t let the mask slip.

Set for summer as prez lifts booze ban
COOL BY THE POOL: The easing of lockdown restrictions has put the bubbles back into life

Not so fast

It’s certainly cause for celebration, but before you break open the best champers, recall that tough times ahead are likely to remain tough for a while.

Chris Bryant, Bloomberg reporter, casting his eye over the global markets, warns that a second virus wave, a disputed US presidential election or Brexit could all create global equity-market volatility later this year. 

His story, under the less than cheery headline “Companies should grab cash now because a grim winter is coming”, dives into the relative merits of debt and equity finance for big corporations looking to shore up their shaky Covid-19 battered foundations. 

Now’s the time to load up on equity, if you can, seems to be the message. 

“There comes a point when adding more debt isn’t sustainable,” the report advises.

Oil on troubled waters

That said, Bryant’s colleagues at Bloomberg’s oil desk are a little more optimistic. They point out that oil futures rose 3 percent on the week’s trade in New York on Friday.

But what would journalism be without some contrary views and caveats. 

The same report notes that the International Energy Agency has cut its global demand estimates for almost every quarter through to the end of 2021. The demand (or lack of it) for jet fuel is the problem.

Then, “on a brighter note”, Bloomberg reports that the Saudis and others are keeping the taps closed as much as they can, so that should lift prices.

So what’s it to be then, and brighter for whom?

She got the goldmine, I got the shaft

But wait, there are always opportunities to make the best of a bad state of affairs. Look no further than Advisor Views, a section on Moneyweb, the investment news site, where financial advisors (they seem to prefer the American spelling), advise.

The columns, in the main, follow a similar pattern:

  • You are alerted to or reminded of something in the news (frequently bad) that is or will be affecting the economy (Covid-19 for example), or of a looming change to laws or regulations; 
  • You are told how this new development might erode your savings or put you in a tighter spot; and
  • Some remedies and financial products are suggested… But with a reminder to first seek out the help of a trusted authorised financial advisor (cue: give the columnist a call).

Sometimes the change to a saver’s personal circumstance provides the basis of the advisor’s call to action, rather than something in the news. 

You’ve had a baby, say, and want to save up to send him or her to university one day.

But it might be something in the wider world that in turn has changed your personal circumstance: Covid-19, has been bad for business and forced your company to retrench you.  

You need advice on how to reinvest your pension, especially in light of a pending divorce.

Hardy perennial

Divorce is a hardy perennial, which might explain the six Advisor Views columns dealing with the subject in the past six weeks. 

Some enterprising financial advisors and their PR writers have even found ways to crowbar coronavirus and divorce into the same copy to get more bang for bucks. Bless ’em!

“If Covid-19 has taught us anything it’s the importance of having an emergency fund… If your ex-spouse is unreliable when it comes to paying maintenance, fortify your position by building three months’ worth of maintenance payments into your reserve funding,” writes Devon Card in an Advisor Views column last week.

If only.

Then again, all that enforced extra time couples have been spending together during lockdown has hardly been healthy for relationships. 

Time to put Card, his colleagues and our lawyer friends onto your speed dial perhaps?

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

In more mask news, The Sunday Times reports on an internal feud at the Special Investigating Unit.

It’s been given sweeping powers to investigate Covid-19 procurement irregularities, but is now facing accusations from one of its own that it  irregularly appointed a company to make face masks for its staff.

Roast for Weekend Special

Justice Raymond Zondo: “Of course the trust you had in him was based on that you had met this person only for the second time in your life. And you had only talked to him once or twice on the phone, that’s all?” 

Des van Rooyen: “Yes.”

That’s Van Rooyen, who held the office of finance minister for four days in 2015, seeking to explain to the State Capture Inquiry why he hired a Gupta associate as a special adviser immediately after he was sworn in. 

For the full story, and a Youtube clip from the inquiry, see TimesLive.

University of life

“Enough is enough. We are declaring war now. We are going to run South Africa ungovernable. We are going to shut down South Africa until our demands are met. We are not afraid of anything.” –  Nkululeko Ndlovu, president of The Unemployment Graduate Movement, addressing protesters on Friday. The movement wants the government to help people find work, especially young graduates, reports IOL.  

Brad you biscuit

Last week A Weak in the News’s potted review of big sports news neglected to mention the most significant achievement by a South African in motorsport in a long time.

Brad Binder, in his maiden MotoGP season, won last Sunday’s Czech Grand Prix in Brno. 

To say that South Africans were pleased by the Potchefstroom born racer’s win would be an understatement.

“We share in his elation and look forward to his long and successful career at the top of his sport,” said President Cyril Ramaphosa in an official statement.

Many others weighed in with messages of congratulation including Kork Ballington, the South African four-time Grand Prix motorcycle road racing world champion.

Wheels24 put together a neat collection of tweets and messages of support from South Africans here and abroad including from Neil and Gareth Christie: “Brad you biscuit! Everybody’s talking about your amazing win. You make us all super proud. Can’t wait for the next race. From us all back home.” 

Very fast

On Sunday (16 August), Binder finished fourth on a KTM after only his fourth MotoGP, at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria.

The 25-year-old survived a crash-marred race which he started in 17 spot to finish about four second behind a podium spot, writes Kevin McCallum in Business Day.

Meanwhile Binder’s brother Darryn is going great guns in Moto3, finishing his race in sixth.

The Binder Brothers. Fourth and fifth on the same weekend. Something big this way comes, predicts McCallum.

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