South African bank stocks are nothing if not resilient. In November they have contended with news that SA’s local-currency debt was downgraded to junk status for a second time this year, increasing their borrowing costs and piling further strain on an economy that slipped into recession in the first quarter. Instead of buckling under an increasingly negative outlook for 2018, bank stocks have reacted by recording their best month of gains since March last year. The six-member index climbed more than 9% in November, after dropping 0.6% in the preceding 10 months. Not only did the gauge swing from losing ground to making gains, it also rose to within just 60 points of the all-time high set in April 2015. Back then, President Jacob Zuma was yet to fire his finance minister Nhlanhla Nene, prompting market turmoil, and the banks were showing steady growth in profit.

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