Flash Briefing: Shares’ best qtr since 2009; Moody’s SA non event; Zuckerberg wants privacy

By Alec Hogg

Today’ global headlines:

  • Global stock markets ended the first three months of 2019 in great shape with another winning session on Friday taking US shares to their best quarterly result in almost a decade. The S&P500 index closed the quarter 13% better than it started and within just 5% of all-time highs set ahead of the September meltdown. Investors are banking on a slowing in US interest rate and a mature solution to the threatened trade war between the US and China.
  • China’s Purchasing Manager’s Index, the official gauge of activity in the country’s manufacturing sector of the world’s second biggest economy, rebounded strongly in March. Analysts say this is evidence Beijing’s stimulatory policies are providing momentum to business activity. The PMI index rose to a six-month high of 50.5 in March, ahead of economist    forecasts and a bump up from February’s 49.2. The PMI is based on responses from purchasing executives at 3,000 companies. Its recovery will ease fears that China’s economy was losing steam after the country posted a 6.4% growth number for the final three months of 2018 – it’s slowest expansion in a decade.
  • Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has called on global lawmakers to introduce more regulation on his own and other internet companies across areas including user privacy. In an opinion piece published on his own blog and in the Washington Post on Saturday, the 34-year-old CEO of the social network used by 2.3bn people worldwide, highlighted privacy, election integrity, harmful content and data portability as the four areas requiring regulation. His post, which contained Zuckerberg’s strongest proposals yet to enhance internet privacy, said the US needed European-style regulations to protect the welfare of users.
  • South African shares closed the week with three successive winning sessions with the JSE’s All Share Index rising three quarters of a percent on Friday. The index ended up 7% for the quarter, a healthy improvement albeit modest by comparison with stronger gains in major global stock exchanges. Friday’s scheduled update on South Africa by ratings agency Moody’s was literally a non-event. No comment whatsoever was released with the update that the rating remains unchanged. Moody’s is closely watched by investors as it is the only one of the Big Three global ratings agencies to retain South African debt at investment grade. A downgrade would force many funds to sell the country’s globally traded bonds and likely force the country to raise the level of its interest rates.