Investors are becoming more optimistic about China, according to a survey of fund managers by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The response showed “a spike in optimism”, which the bank described as “one sign that emerging markets could be set to recover in the months ahead”.
This follows a big sell-off in emerging market stocks and bonds since May, when the US Federal Reserve first signalled that it would start to phase out its liquidity programme. Investors pulled their funds from emerging markets in anticipation of relatively better returns elsewhere.
A net 28 percent of respondents from the Asia Pacific region and global emerging markets believe China’s economy will strengthen in the year ahead, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
“The outcome is in sharp contrast with the net 32 percent forecasting a weakening economy just one month ago – a monthly swing of 60 percentage points.”
The bank reported that investors were seeing the best value in emerging markets in almost a decade. “A net 36 percent of the panel says that global emerging market equities are the cheapest of all the regions. This is the strongest undervalued reading since January 2004.”
However, Barclays economist Jian Chang sounded a warning note on China. “We are turning more cautious on the outlook in 2014,” she said as she lowered the growth forecast for next year to 7.1 percent from 7.4 percent previously and 7.8 percent forecast in April.
“We do not expect the recent acceleration in domestic demand to be sustained, given our belief that policy support aims to stabilise rather than boost growth.”
Jian spoke of “fundamental challenges facing the Chinese economy” that have not been addressed. And she predicted that the Chinese government would cut its 2014 gross domestic product growth target to 7 percent from 7.5 percent.
Who would be the perpetrators of South Africa’s worst customer service? None other than government agencies and utility providers, according to research published last week by global firm Interactive Intelligence, a provider of contact centre solutions.
South Africa was polled alongside Australia, Brazil, Germany, North America, Sweden and the UK in a study conducted by Actionable Research between February and March. The quizmasters intended to determine customers’ experiences and expectations of companies and the customer service provided by company call centres.
According to the research, South African participants favoured hotel contact centres, ranking them as the hub of superior customer service. The next best dispensers of great service were online retail stores and banks. In contrast, government agencies and utility providers were ranked among the worst. These kind of surveys tend to be relative but generally make for interesting trivia.
If complaints website HelloPeter.com is a fair barometer of the nation’s service gripes, then in all fairness power utility Eskom, for example, has only received four complaints since the beginning of the month compared with 10 over the same period last month. Last week, an Eskom call centre operative received a compliment for swift and friendly service.
Some of the frustrations survey participants listed included a lack of knowledge on the part of the call centre agent, being transferred multiple times before finding the appropriate person to assist, having to repeat information at different points of the interaction and not being able to understand the agent speaking to the customer on the phone.
In a society where customer experience is becoming a key differentiator, Deon Scheepers, an Interactive Intelligence strategic consultant for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, emphasised that employees must be made aware of the impact that bad customer service had on the bottom line.
The Freedom Front Plus (FF+) believes that its “relentless struggle” against e-tolls in Gauteng has stopped the controversial bill, intended to legalise the process of tolling motorists by 2013, “in its tracks”.
Anton Alberts, a FF+ MP, has been in communication with President Jacob Zuma’s office, but said the presidency had “drawn a veil of secrecy over the status of the Transport Laws and Related Matters Amendment Bill” – dubbed the e-toll bill.
“The FF+ is of the opinion that the president has very little room to manoeuvre… and should rather send it back to Parliament,” Alberts said.
Transport Minister Ben Martins said the bill was with the president for signing. The department was awaiting this event.
It is understood that the state legal advisers concur with the FF+, but Alberts said the president’s office was keeping mum. Alberts had spoken to Mac Maharaj, the presidential spokesman, who confirmed that Zuma was studying the matter. The president would “at a later date announce his finding”, Alberts quoted him as saying.
Alberts believed the bill – like the so-called secrecy bill that gives the government sweeping powers to make state matters confidential – would be sent back to Parliament because it was unconstitutional. He believed his party’s struggle had at least bought the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance time to complete its court case against the SA National Roads Agency, which will run the e-tolls.
But Alberts warned that if the president decided to sign the legislation into law, “it will be contested in court”.
He noted that the parliamentary deadline for bill submission had passed on June 7. It meant that if the bill was referred back to Parliament, it would probably only be processed by the portfolio committee on transport next year.
What this probably means is that the toll roads have hit a legislative pothole.
Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Ethel Hazelhurst, Asha Speckman and Donwald Pressly.