Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

Slow pick-up in India’s GDP growth

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

GDP estimates by the Central Statistics Office for the 2013-14 fiscal year show an improvement over the previous year. But the extent of improvement is too small for comfort. Possibly, in the final revision, that small margin may disappear or even turn negative.

This year, India’s GDP is expected to be up 4.9 percent from 4.5 percent the previous year. This additional growth has come mainly from agriculture, due to a favourable monsoon. Agricultural growth was three times the previous year. Production of non-food grains (like vegetables and fruits), and animal products (like meat and eggs), did not increase adequately in spite of the inflated demand and will continue to be the main source of inflation.

It cannot be said for certain that the monsoon will be normal in 2014 and, even if it is, growth will be lower because of a higher base this year. We cannot rely on agriculture for GDP growth. It has to come from industry and services.

Both performed badly this fiscal year and there are no indications of significant change in the coming year unless major reforms come through. The Congress-led government failed in this respect. Even the opening up of retail to foreign investment did not come through because the reform was hedged with too many conditions, which foreign investors were unwilling to comply with.

India Markets Weekahead: Time to size up portfolio

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

After a scare earlier in the week, the markets showed resilience at lower levels and bounced back, showing the confidence of participants. Though Nifty closed 26 points lower for the week at 6063, sentiment was much better than the previous week.

Unclear messages from the electoral tea leaves

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

The past 12 months have been characterized by the narrowest market in two decades although sectoral performance varied significantly. While the markets are likely to be range-bound, valuations are expected to rise in 2014, especially in the first half.

Based on a one-year forward PE range of between 12.5 and 15 times and our top-down FY15 earnings growth forecast for the Nifty of between 10 percent and 15 percent, we expect the index to trade between 5,500 and 6,900 in 2014, with a target of 6,900 — an implied increase of around 10 percent relative to current levels.

Indian hedge funds get knocked down but get up again

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

The fortunes of hedge funds focused on India continue to twist and turn, with many plots and subplots. After witnessing widespread losses and heavy redemptions in 2008, Indian hedge fund managers bounced back remarkably to post a 50 percent return in 2009. They continued their good form in 2010, delivering healthy gains of 12 percent during the year.

But in 2011, the managers witnessed losses amid declining markets and a depreciating rupee. At the end of that year, many managers expressed confidence in the underlying market for the following year and predicted gains for the rupee by mid-2012 — both these predictions came to pass. The Eurekahedge Indian Hedge Fund Index was up 13.13 percent in 2012, making it the strongest regional hedge fund mandate for the year. Some of the funds even witnessed asset inflows in 2012 and early 2013, a rarity for Indian hedge funds since the financial crisis.

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.

Indian markets at risk but elections could spell change

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

It’s been an eventful September so far for India. The Indian parliament cleared key economic legislation in its extended session. The Reserve Bank of India saw a new governor taking charge. FII flows reversed trend to turn positive in equity and debt markets. Volatility in the currency market subsided and the rupee staged a recovery from historic lows. Near-term bond yields shrank and the August trade deficit came in lower as exports climbed. The Syrian crisis seems to have abated. Does this mean that the worst is behind us and things will start improving?

As discussed in my previous column, some of these actions from the Indian government and the central bank seem like quick fixes to set right deteriorating macroeconomic numbers. India’s Q1 GDP is now at 4.4 percent, much lower than expected, and FY14 GDP growth is expected to be below 5 percent. The rise in interest rates on account of the central bank’s measures to lessen currency volatility will definitely affect GDP growth in the remaining three quarters. Monthly IIP and PMI numbers are not encouraging either. Both WPI and CPI inflation are not yet stable. Headline inflation soared to a six-month high in August. Input costs for the consumer staples basket are set to rise due to currency depreciation, which could have an impact on consumption volumes. On the oil subsidy front, rupee depreciation has again increased per unit under-recovery on diesel, kerosene and cooking gas. The urgent need for a substantial increase in diesel prices could eventually have a dampening impact on growth.

Time to brace yourself for a hard landing

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

In his speech to parliament last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said: “The depreciation of the rupee and rise in dollar prices of petroleum products will no doubt lead to some further upward pressure on prices. The Reserve Bank of India will therefore continue to focus on bringing down inflation.”

By saying this, the economist in Singh seems to have won against the politician. This has also been a vindication of sorts for outgoing RBI Governor Duvvuri Subbarao.

India Markets Weekahead: Cash is king

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

Around mid-week, the Indian markets seemed akin to a sinking ship which saw unabated selling with Nifty hitting a low of 5,168 on Wednesday, before recovering sharply to close the week at 5,471 on the hopes of concrete action by the government to shore up the sentiments and the Reserve Bank of India’s moves to save the rupee.

The street expected structural reforms from the government to tackle this crisis whereas the textbook solutions of the RBI and the government backfired. The rupee cracked to touch 69/dollar, but recovered to close the week at 66.55.

The resurrection of Congress

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(This piece comes from Project Syndicate. The opinions expressed are the author’s own)

The overwhelming victory of the Indian National Congress in elections in the important southern state of Karnataka in early May has shaken up the country’s political scene. India’s troubled ruling party had appeared headed downhill in the build-up to the next general elections, which must be held by May 2014. Now, following its huge win in Karnataka, all bets are off.

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