Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

Time to ride the rally in the run-up to 2014 elections

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Election fever in the world’s biggest democracy is gripping India in the run-up to general elections due in 2014. In the coming months, politics will be in focus especially among investors.

Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan were a prelude to next year’s election. The four states make up 72 seats in the Lok Sabha. Historical data suggests the electorate votes on the same lines for the Lok Sabha in case state polls are held within 12 months of the general elections.

The Congress party found itself at the receiving end on Sunday and was decimated in the four states. While voters in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh reposed faith in the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Delhi and Rajasthan saw a widespread wave against the ruling Congress. Despite its consolation win in the Mizoram state election a day later, the Congress party is likely to face its toughest test in 2014 after two successive terms at the centre.

The BJP, on the other hand, cemented its political ascendancy by dominating the state elections. The party’s momentum has been attributed to a cadre galvanized by the announcement of Narendra Modi as their prime ministerial candidate. The Aam Aadmi Party also made a spectacular debut in the capital, ensuring that they would be regarded as serious contenders in the general elections.

How the U.S. Fed’s tapering can affect Indian markets

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

It was never expected to be permanent. Quantitative Easing (QE), designed to pep up the U.S. economy after the financial crisis of 2008-09, has survived for five years. The United States is now on a rebound and unemployment is receding. That has tempted the U.S. Federal Reserve to reconsider tapering its economic stimulus.

This was first announced on May 17 and sent tremors through global markets. Asian markets were the most affected; India was worst-hit, having come to depend on FII investment. The knee-jerk reaction of FIIs was to reduce exposure to emerging market economies in the expectation that liquidity would dry up and interest rates would harden.

If change does come in 2014

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The market is pregnant with expectations of a change after the general elections which must be held by next May. You would have to travel far and wide before you come across anyone in India’s financial market who is not hoping – even praying – for change.

The mood on the current policy direction is so gloomy that any alternative is looking like manna from heaven.

Taking stock of the insurance sector

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

With half the financial year gone by, it’s time to take stock of the insurance sector. Let me start with life insurance.

It was a tough year as new norms for a majority of insurance products – which were to be effective Oct. 1, 2013 but later postponed to Jan. 1, 2014 – were hanging like a sword over the business.

Which inflation should the RBI target?

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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining price and financial stability, and it has used interest rate and money supply to pursue this objective with unwavering determination. Yet, inflation has survived with matching persistence.

The index that the RBI uses to target inflation is the wholesale price index (WPI), which is the combined price of a commodity basket comprising 676 items. A few prices in this basket can be too volatile or outside the scope of the RBI’s monetary policy, leading to poor results.

India Markets Weekahead: Results of state elections a key driver

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Markets had been on a roller-coaster ride but closed weak for the third week in the row with the Nifty in the 5950-6000 range providing support.

A hint from the U.S. Federal Reserve on tapering its bond-buying programme was enough to spook the markets. Though this is expected in the first quarter of the new year, it remains to be seen whether chairman-elect Janet Yellen’s dovish stance would postpone it further.

Mall developers take to revenue-sharing to woo retailers

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Over the last five to seven years, the retail segment in India has evolved towards a more organized pricing structure. After the real estate boom of 2005-06, when property prices increased to as much as 40 percent of a retailer’s operating costs, developers seemed more willing to share the business risk. They moved from a per-square-foot rental model to versions of the minimum guarantee and/or the revenue share model. Most investment-grade properties in major cities now follow this model, unlike shopping centres in smaller cities.

In the original model, rentals varied depending on the store and location. But with increased brand awareness and rising vacancies, developers saw the need for a customized tenancy mix, adopting efficient mall management techniques while protecting retailer interests to maximize their own earnings.

Not a smooth ride for the markets

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

There was subdued excitement over the Sensex hitting a record high in a special trading session on Diwali. It had taken the market quite some time to cross its previous peak in 2008. This was also the case for most other markets, although they had recovered a little earlier.

The Indian market was slow to catch up because, apart from the international conditions, there were domestic problems that affected the health of the economy.

Leveraging the digital revolution

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

We live in an age where emerging technologies are narrowing the divide between humans and machines. As features of mobile phones become more customized and complex, they cease to be just devices of communication. Mobile phones now store more personal information than ever before. They are increasingly being perceived as personalized devices that enhance our lives.

We are also living in times when remote robotic surgeries and online classrooms are transforming healthcare and education in ways never imagined before. We are truly living in a digital age.

India Markets Weekahead: Invest with an eye on the exit door

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Markets touched new highs this week but the usual euphoria was missing as it wasn’t a broad-based rally. Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said the worst may be over for India as the current account deficit is getting under control while a bumper harvest could help rein in food inflation and boost the rural economy. Hopes of a revival and the mirage of green shoots coupled with international liquidity due to delayed U.S. Federal Reserve tapering has fuelled this rally, which is expected to spread to other sectors that are comparatively under-valued.

But the ground-level situation is in stark contrast to the optimism in the indexes. October auto sales were flat to negative for a number of automobile majors despite huge discounts. The festive season hasn’t spurred sales in white goods either, as food inflation reduced the disposable income of the middle class.

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