JSE vs international markets: Not a pretty picture

A quick look at the performance of stock markets around the world shows that Johannesburg, London and Hong Kong were not the best places for investors during the rather difficult 2023.

In hindsight it is easy to see that the place to be was New York – specifically the Nasdaq Stock Exchange, with all its technology shares.


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A passive investor buying the index by investing in a tracker fund would have earned or nearly 45% on the Nasdaq.

Active investors who were clever (or lucky) enough to invest only in the most popular tech shares on the Nasdaq would have fared much better. The top performers more than doubled.

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange increased by a paltry 1.8% in 2023.

The London Stock Exchange didn’t do any better, increasing only 1.9% over the year. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange was an even worse place to be, but Japan treated investors well.

How markets performed in 2023, in local currencies
Index Change
Nasdaq 44.8%
Nikkei 29%
S&P 500 24.3%
Dax 18.7%
Cac40 14.8%
Dow Jones 12.8%
Euronext 100 11.5%
ASX 8%
FTSE 100 1.9%
JSE 1.8%
Hang Seng -19%

Source: Based on Bloomberg data

Once again, active investors who chose the right shares would have done much better, but with the risk that they could have done much worse if they were wrong in their selections.

Exchange rate

In addition, South African investors who elected to invest abroad benefitted from the weakening exchange rate. The rand falling from around R17 per dollar at the start of 2023 to R18.30 at the end of the year added significantly to the returns earned on foreign markets.

Someone who wanted to invest R500 000 in US markets would have had just more than $29 400 to invest at the exchange rate of R16.99 at the beginning of January 2023. At the end of the year, this investment would have increased by 44.8% to more than $42 000 at the end of December.

This translates to nearly R780 000 at year-end, due to the rand having declined to R18.30.

In rand terms, the investment in the Nasdaq yielded 56%.

Similarly, the return of 11.5% in the Euronext 500 increased to nearly 24% in rand terms after taking into account the fall in the rand from R18.19 per euro to R20.22 at year end.

Rand depreciation boosts returns
Index Return in ZAR
Nasdaq 56%
S&P 500 33.9%
Dax 31.9%
Nikkei 29%
Cac40 27.6%
Euronext 100 23.9%
Dow Jones 21.5%
ASX 16.2%
FTSE 100 15.5%
JSE 1.8%
Hang Seng -13.1%

Source: Based on Bloomberg data



While the JSE lagged world markets, a few of the larger and popular shares achieved remarkable gains during 2023.

Among the Top 40 shares, the best of the lot was Gold Fields, which increased by nearly 70%. This was due to the increase in the gold price from $1 823 per ounce to $2 062.

While the gold price did not increase that much, the effect on the profitability of gold mines is huge. The weak rand also helped.

Sanlam, Aspen Pharmacare and Reinet increased by around 40% and several other shares by around 20%.

Unfortunately, the gains were offset by equally large declines, in the share prices of other large companies, such as platinum producers, British American Tobacco and Sasol.

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Top 40 shares over one and three years
2023 3 years
Gold Fields 69.6% Investec 246.6%
Sanlam 44.7% Glencore 140.2%
Aspen 44.6% Gold Fields 114.9%
Reinet Invest 39.0% Shoprite 96.7%
Bid Corp 25.3% MTN 88.1%
Mondi 22.4% Woolworths 83.2%
Nepi Rockcastle 20.2% Reinet 68.9%
Standard Bank 19.9% Remgro 63.9%
Old Mutual 18.0% Bid Corp 59.6%
BHP 17.7% Nedbank 58.4%
Shoprite 16.8% Aspen 57.7%
RMB 16.7% Bidvest 57.4%
Remgro 16.1% Standard Bank 57.0%
Investec 16.0% Exxaro 49.3%
Clicks 16.0% Capitec 41.4%
Bidvest 15.8% Sasol 40.9%
AB InBev 14.8% FirstRand 37.0%
FirstRand 14.3% Nepi Rockcastle 34.9%
Discovery 13.1% Absa 30.1%
Capitec 6.8% Clicks 24.3%
AngloGold Ashanti 6.4% Old Mutual 21.9%
Woolworths 5.8% Sanlam 21.6%
Nedbank -1.1% AB InBev 14.0%
Naspers -2.9% Mondi 4.0%
Mr Price -4.1% AngloGold Ashanti 3.3%
Glencore -4.2% BHP -1.3%
Exxaro -7.6% British American Tobacco -1.3%
MTN -11.0% Anglo American -2.9%
Vodacom -14.5% Naspers -8.3%
Absa -18.1% Discovery -8.8%
Growthpoint -20.2% Growthpoint -10.0%
British American Tobacco -20.7% Mr Price -10.6%
Northam Platinum -26.0% Vodacom -14.5%
Anglo American -31.5% RMB -23.1%
Sasol -32.5% Anglo American Platinum -23.3%
MultiChoice -32.9% Northam Platinum -31.8%
Anglo American Platinum -34.8% MultiChoice -40.8%
Prosus -56.8% Impala Platinum -56.6%
Impala Platinum -60.0% Prosus -68.1%

Source: Profile Media

However, the price data requires a bit of interpretation. Prosus did not have a good year – the decline of 56% is largely the result of an increase in the number of shares as Prosus issued shares to shareholders when simplifying the control structure between Naspers and Prosus.

Read: Tencent, Prosus and Naspers recover a bit [2 Jan 2024]

Source: moneyweb.co.za