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Equities are feeling the love as repos ramp down

Published:Friday | May 29, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The resurgence of local action on the Jamaica Stock Exchange is a side effect of the movement away from repos and towards collective investment schemes (CIS), a class of products that includes mutual funds and unit trusts.

In its reading of market dynamics in the first quarter, the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) also said rates have fallen on repo arrangements "making equities more attractive" to investors.

At the end of March, the JSE reported year-to-date growth in the main market index of just under 10 per cent, and annual growth of 11.4 per cent. Some of that growth, said BOJ, was fuelled by improved investor confidence in equities.

The central bank's review gives fillip to predictions of market watchers that a bull run is underway and that equities might double in value within two years. Two weeks ago, the combined index of the JSE - comprising all its equity trading platforms - hit a record high of 101,740, but has since retreated to 99,980.

The main market index, which is primarily used to track the performance of stocks, itself hit 99,499, points - up from 83,805 at the end of March - but has since shed about 1,800 points.

Stocks also delivered better returns than foreign currency investments in the first quarter.

"Notably, the capital gain on foreign currency investments was 5.6 per cent relative to returns of 7.1 per cent on equities investments for the year," said the BOJ's quarterly monetary report.

The annual 11.4 per cent growth in the main stock market index to March 2015 was a strong turnaround from a decline of 5.3 per cent for the year ending March 2014 and a stark contrast to the stock market's 0.2 per cent five-year growth average.

The junior market did not do as well. The junior index expanded by just 2.7 per cent in the January to March 2015 period, but declined by 5.2 per cent year-on-year.

The most recent data released for unit trust and mutual fund investments, dated September 2014, values them at $117 billion. Eight per cent of unit trust funds are invested in equities. Reforms to the broker-dealer industry include a phasing out of retail repo-based business models, even though that market was still worth more than $400 billion at last estimate at the end of summer 2014. Comparatively, stock market wealth, which was valued at $360 billion at the end of March, had grown to $425 billion by the penultimate week of May.

Companies have been adding CIS products, which has served to grow unit trust offerings to 28 funds, whose underlying assets are either equities and/or fixed-income securities, with a few also backed by real estate.

Meanwhile, although investors are demonstrating new love for equities, the data suggests that they are choosy about which stocks they commit to, even while showing no particular bias towards any sector.

The BOJ noted that while the value of transactions increased by 1.6 per cent, the volume of stocks traded and number of transactions for the main JSE index declined by 27.9 per cent and 5.3 per cent, respectively.

Share price appreciation was "broad-based" and reflected stocks within manufacturing, communications, conglomerate, finance and other sectors. The top 10 declining stocks also occurred across several sectors.