Africa's stock markets in 2014: The hot, the so-so, the surprise, and the forgetables

Some bourses held their own admirably, others plunged, others rose--all in a year's trade.

IT has been a tough year for African stock markets, most of which tend to be generally classified as “frontier” by global investor firms.

A sampling of eight stock exchange indices in Africa shows they lost 14.51% of their value over the last one year, even as MSCI data showed a 15.75% gain over the last three years.

The markets tracked by Morgan Stanley Capital International were Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, Tunisia and Zimbabwe.

Indices have their weaknesses, but they do provide a general picture of market performance. We looked at the annual performance of the individual exchanges, biased, but not limited to, the more inclusive and weighted All Share Indices from the African Securities Exchanges Association to rank them into categories based on the numbers:


The Star Performers:


Kenya

The Nairobi Securities Exchange Ltd All Share Index traded at 162.2 points on December 24, just four shy of its year-high of 167.54 reached on December 8.  It has been a steady climb in the right direction for the index, which started the year on 136.56 points. 

The main ‘blue chip’ NSE 20 Share Index also hit a September high of 5406.39, with a stable currency and a shrinking current account deficit among the factors cited for the rally. But with a new capital gains tax coming into effect in the New Year, the honeymoon looks set to sour.


Uganda


Uganda’s All-Shares Index also had a good year, starting at 1520 points and closing the year above 1940 points in what was a steady climb. In 2010 the country’s bourse was the best performing in sub-Saharan Africa.

The country’s performance is more a reflection of investor confidence given a host of incentives. (Read: Where in Africa money hit sweet returns for 2014 - and where it’s likely to pay off big in 2015)

Malawi

Malawi had a memorable year, punctuated by a dramatic election and a face-off with all-important donors.

But surprisingly its All Share index defied currency volatility and investor uncertainty to head in only one direction—up—to trade at 14886 points, a three-year high— on December 24, having started the year at 12531 points.  

Zambia’s All Share Index also had a good year, holding above 6000 points since April, having started the year at 5300 points. This is despite electoral and investor uncertainty, the latter over proposed mining policy changes. 

Honourable mentions:

Botswana also from October saw its majority Domestic Company Index go above 9500 points and remain there, having started the year at 9064 points, while Egypt is also seeing a three year high for its EGX 30 Index, as it continues to place a premium on political stability. Tunisia has also had a good year.


The Never-Say Dies:


Mauritius

The SEMDEX all shares index had a yoyo year, starting the year at 2110.27 points, hitting a low of 20131.38 in May, touching a high of 2170.71 points in October (a three year high) before tapering down to 2072.94 on December 29.

The country’s markets exhibit a beta-relation to developed markets, while it also held a credible—as usual— election.

South Africa

South Africa’s business confidence was largely depressed in 2014, on the back of labour unrest and electoral jitters, but will be pretty pleased with the numbers given this background.

The FTSE/JSE: Africa All Share Index battled on strongly, starting the year at 46589 points, hitting a July—and three year— high of 52242 points and trading at 49478.3 on December 24. 

It saw an 8% increase over the year as firms sought capital to fund regional expansion, while the all share index has retreated 5% since July, reflecting market volatility.  SA companies also raised the most money on share sales since 2005—$13 billion or a 58% jump.


The Underwhelmers:


Ghana

Ghana had a particularly mediocre year, as its currency plunged—the worst performer in Africa— forcing it to seek financial help from the International Monetary Fund. 

And with oil prices further plummeting it could have been forgiven for wondering whose goat it ate. 

The troubles were reflected in its stock market—the Ghana Stock Exchange-Composite Index fell from a February 20 high of 2439.2 points—the highest in three years— to 2286.11 points on December 24 following a choppy last six months, but still better than the January 2 low of 2145. 2 points when a rally begun. 

Morocco

The MADEX started the year at 7440.57 points, hit a high of 8499 points in October before embarking on a decline to touch 7972.12 on December 10, 7% down over the year. It has reached 8750 points in April 2012.

Rwanda

The fledgling five-company Rwanda Stock Exchange had a year to forget, starting the year at 232.2 points, rising to 270 points in April, a three year high, before shrinking to to 222 points in November. 


The Where-Do-We-Go-From-Heres:


Nigeria

Nigeria’s ASI on July 4 hit the heights at 43031.81 points, a three-year high, having started off at 41228 points in January before embarking on a bear run that saw it crash to 29789.59 points on December 17. 

The country goes into an election in February while oil prices have seen it revise its budgetary plans, heralding an uncertain future. The stock has market ended the year 16% down, but many dealers see it as a market correction, and should bloom again in 2015.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s Industrial Index headed down, starting the year at 201 points and trading at 167 points on December 10, just off its year low of 163 reached in April. It has however seen worse: in May 2012 it reached 128.95 points. The majority of its counters also rarely trade, as investors remain wary of risk. 


The Surprise:


Swaziland

Swaziland generally gets a rough ride in the media, but is SZ Index has not been too bothered, starting the year at 294.27 points, and flattening at 298 points since October, which is a three-year high. It has a very unusual market curve—smooth and linear. It may be a small market, but it is a thriving one.


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