The trading environment is very much affected by socio-economic conditions. And what’s trending online is generally a very good indicator of what those conditions are.
Daniel Kibel, Co-Founder and Director of CM Trading, discusses some of the most popular searches in South Africa that trended in 2020, which speak to factors that influenced the markets throughout the year.
“For obvious reasons, this was undoubtedly the hottest topic of the year. And even as vaccines begin to roll out, it continues to be the one thing on most people’s minds. The pandemic has had far-reaching effects on just about every aspect of life in general.
Many industries and markets suffered due to lockdown measures. Widespread job losses and business closures, an alcohol ban and a tobacco ban have seen the South African economy contract at a rapid rate.
Some industries were more severely affected than others. The tourism, entertainment and hospitality industries were among the hardest hit, as were the alcohol and tobacco industries.
Sasol share price
“With an increase in online trading activity during lockdown, it’s not surprising that this was one of the top searches. Sasol shares have always been seen as one of the top shares in South Africa, so the oil giant is one to watch.
The oil price dropped drastically in 2020, largely due to a reduced demand for fuel with travel restrictions in place.
“But as things begin to return to normal, we could see oil picking up. And anyone who bought shares in 2020 could see significant profit in the year ahead.
Despite a brutal 2020, Sasol is implementing plans for recovery and growth, starting with accumulating $3.5 billion from asset disposals and cutting capital expenditure by R20 billion.
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“One of the saddest realities millions of South Africans faced during lockdown was the unemployment crisis. In the second quarter of 2020 alone, over two million jobs were lost and unemployment in South Africa is currently around 40%.
The fact that this search term trended speaks volumes about the depth of the crisis.
“As many South Africans try to find work, the job market is flooded, and we are likely to feel the economic effects of this crisis for years to come. Government’s R350 unemployment grant scheme was met with many complaints, with thousands complaining that the designated government communication portals were unresponsive, and many applications were declined.
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“The words, “With immediate effect” have become divisive to say the least. In a nation with an economy that is on a downturn, while lockdown measures may have been necessary, they caused a lot of controversy. And at regular intervals, South Africans waited with bated breath for the President’s next address.
“The ban on tobacco and related products during level 5, 4 and 3 of lockdown had the industry fighting to come back, and ultimately, the ban was ruled unconstitutional in court late last year. Nationwide, smokers were up in arms and the illegal cigarette trade boomed while billions were lost in tax revenue.
“Similarly, the ban on liquor under various levels of lockdown affected, not only the liquor industry, but various spheres of tourism and hospitality as well. And as we navigate adjusted level 3 lockdown with vaccines beginning to arrive, the President’s next speech will still be one of the most watched events in the country.
Level 3 lockdown South Africa
“Adjusted level 3 lockdown, which began on 28 December and has since been readjusted, was another blow for the hospitality, alcohol and tourism industries.
Beach closures and a dry New Year’s Eve followed by an equally dry January have forced companies like SAB Miller and Distell to begin retrenchment processes and waste an unprecedented amount of stock.
The now relaxed 9pm curfew coupled with the alcohol ban saw many restaurants and taverns close their doors and it is likely that many of those businesses won’t be able to claw their way back.
“In terms of how the market is performing, these search trends are very telling. They paint a picture of a nation that is trying to bounce back from the economic effects of the pandemic and rebuild an ailing economy.
The terms South Africans enter into their search bars in 2021 are set to paint an even more revealing picture.”
Photo: Clive Wright