Interest rate relief coming soon for South Africans – Alexforbes

Lesetja Kganyago

South Africans can expect interest rates to be cut in the coming months as inflation gradually nears the midpoint of the Reserve Bank’s 3% to 6% target range. 

This is feedback from chief economist Mpho Molopyane, who explained the financial services firm’s outlook for the rest of 2023 in its 2023 Alexforbes Manager Watch Annual Survey. 

The Alexforbes survey of retirement fund investment managers showcases the performance of institutional fund managers in South Africa.

It has tracked the retirement fund investment management industry since the dawn of the country’s democracy and provides a key reference point to all South African retirement funding industry stakeholders.

As part of the report, Molopyane outlined Alexforbes’ economic outlook for South Africa.

She said the country’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic has lost steam due to the continued inconsistent electricity supply and weak consumer and business confidence. 

However, Alexforbes expects the economy’s performance to improve slightly throughout 2024 on the back of reduced load-shedding and increased self-generation capacity. 

Furthermore, declining inflation means that the Reserve Bank is likely to cut rates in the second half of the year, possibly beginning in July. 

Molopyane said the inflation picture had evolved positively as headline inflation began to edge back to the Reserve Bank’s target range as food and energy price growth moderated. 

Headline inflation bottomed at 4.7% in July 2023 and rose to 5.9% in October, as favourable fuel and food base effects waned and conflict in the Middle East lifted oil prices.

Since then, headline inflation has resumed its decent, reaching 5.1% in December 2023. Alexforbes expects this decline to be sustained despite some volatility. 

It estimates that inflation will decline from 5.9% in 2023 to 4.9% in 2024 and 4.5% in 2025. The company also expects overall food inflation to ease, driven partly by moderation in meat and bread and cereal inflation.

Regarding monetary policy, Alexforbes expect the Reserve Bank to keep the policy rate unchanged throughout the first half of 2024 as it remains concerned about upward risks to the inflation outlook. 

Despite the Reserve Bank’s hawkish posture, Alexforbes believes the expected decline in inflation will give it room to cut the repo rate by 75 basis points in the second half of the year and a further 50 basis points in 2025. 

The financial services company expects inflation expectations to start declining in tandem with the downward trajectory in headline inflation. This will strengthen the case for monetary policy easing.

Molopyane’s outlook is similar to those of other financial institutions, such as Standard Bank. 

Its chief economist, Goolam Ballim, expects the Reserve Bank to cut interest rates four times in 2024, with each round being a 25 basis point cut. 

This will result in the repo rate declining to 7.25% at the end of the year as inflation continues to moderate towards the Reserve Bank’s range of 3% to 6%. 

Ballim expects rate cuts to begin in the second quarter of 2024 and said there is an outside chance the Reserve Bank may start cutting rates before the Federal Reserve in the US. 

However, the percentage point decrease in the South African repo rate will leave interest rates near historic highs. 

The Reserve Bank has hiked rates by a cumulative 475 basis points since it began in November 2021, taking rates to a 14-year high of 8.25% in May 2023. It has since left rates unchanged. 

Standard Bank expects little long-term relief for South Africans, forecasting the repo rate to decline to 7.25% by the end of 2024 but then only being cut to 7% for the following two years. 

The bank’s forecast is part of a growing consensus around interest rates being higher for longer as an increasing number of economists and institutions expect inflation to be structurally higher than in the past. 


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