Banking shares have gained strongly since the beginning of December as investors have pitched into stocks with domestic South African exposure in anticipation of happier economic times promised by the Cyril Ramaphosa victory. Relative to the SA Inc story, the banks’ own idiosyncrasies have been a relatively small factor in the share-price rally. But the latest round of results has provided some support for banking shares, showing the big four’s resilience in 2017’s tough times. All four have posted reasonably robust results, even if some look stronger than others. In its first set of annual results since former parent Barclays sold down its stake in 2017, Barclays Africa – soon to be Absa again – reported a 4% increase in headline earnings, though return on equity fell from 16.6% to 16.4%. Smaller Nedbank, which is also on its way to being freed from the control of parent Old Mutual, reported headline earnings growth of just 2.8% as the troubles at its African associate ETI continue...

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