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01 mar 2019

Why you should be interested in India

With central banks in retreat across the globe, the dollar weakening and the trade ceasefire holding, emerging market equities are in the spotlight. Chanchal Samadder tells us why India is his market of choice. 

As many an intrepid traveller would tell you, India has a lot to offer. The same is true from an investment perspective. India is the third-largest economy in the world – based on purchasing power parity – at $9.4trn and is the fastest-growing economy among the G20 group of nations. It has also been one of the best-performing equity markets over the past 15 years, having delivered a total return of 10.2% in USD on an annualised basis (vs. 8.1% for emerging markets and 6.7% for developed markets, according to MSCI as at 26/02/2019). Over the last five years, India has outperformed China and the broad MSCI Emerging Markets (EM) Index significantly in USD terms, despite a consistently weakening currency.

In our eyes, there’s more to come. We believe India still offers some of the best return potential among EMs and should have a strategic place in any emerging equity portfolio allocation today. 

Short-term troubles, solid fundamentals

With around 900 million citizens eligible to vote, the seven phases of Indian elections will only come to an end on 19 May. The outcome will be known on 23 May. While policy uncertainty is currently low, some short-term post-election volatility is possible. There is a chance for change at the top, particularly after the majority party (BJP) lost recent state elections. Should Prime minister Modi stay in power, markets will be focusing on whether his party has to form a coalition. Indian equity return patterns over previous election years show political stability is what matters most, not who wins. They also show that fragmented, unstable coalitions come at a cost

For all that, domestic economic conditions are improving. The recovery after the ‘taper tantrum’ lows of 2013 was led by the consumer sector, consumer finance and retail loan-oriented banks but it was impeded by a lack of corporate investment and a sharp rise in stressed assets among financials.

Now though, those financials look far healthier, and the Reserve Bank of India is anticipating fewer non-performing loans for the first time in several years. Domestic consumption is stabilising again, and investment is picking up. Upping the pace of urbanisation should provide another boost. Further progress in capex, credit growth and the end of disinflation means India may well notch up real GDP growth of 7.5-8% over the next five years. 

Capex – the next driver of equity performance

Earnings growth in India averages around 11% over the long term, in line with its long-term nominal GDP growth rate. Shorter-term, the picture is different. Earnings growth has disappointed for a decade, dragged down by indisciplined financials and their bad loan books. Greater regulatory demands on the subsequent balance sheet clean-up were also to blame.

Fast forward to today and the picture is far rosier.  Corporate earnings growth is back above long-term averages and we expect to see further profit normalisation for financials. A pick-up in corporate credit growth, capacity expansion in the materials sector and improved revenues from industrials suggest capex is recovering, which can only be a good thing for equities. The next five years should be more about growth and releveraging, a dual push which, in our view, should keep corporate profitability at or above its long-term average. 

Price to book value vs. history                                12 months fwd EPS growth vs. history 

Chart 1

Sources: Refinitiv, MSCI, Lyxor AM International, data as at 31/01/2019. past performance is no guarantee of future returns 

The dominance of the domestic

Indian households have shown much greater appetite for their stock markets over the last five years, thanks to a series of government measures. These inflows have been a source of real support for the equity market. It has helped reduce volatility, lessen sensitivity with other emerging markets and dampen drawdowns when foreign assets are flowing outwards.

Speaking of domesticity, India is less dependent on exports than China. It relies far more on its internal growth engine, which could insulate it should trade hostilities resume. As we see it, this new version of the Great Game hasn’t played out yet.

At the core of every EM portfolio

Over the past five years, Indian equities have become less volatile due to greater domestic investor participation, lower inflation and less exposure to currency gyrations. The country is not completely insulated from the general sentiment on EMs, but its market beta has declined considerably. While it’s true Indian equities are still trading at premium compared to other EMs, we’d argue these levels are supported by the return to strong EPS growth after that decade in the doldrums.

There’s little doubt in my mind that Indian equities have their place as a core holding in EM portfolios. With a weight of only 8.5% weight in the bellwether MSCI Emerging Markets benchmark, India is under represented in broad EM indices. Our analysis shows that adding a 20% overweight to India to a portfolio tracking the MSCI benchmark improved overall returns and reduced risk over five years. According to our calculations, the annualised volatility of such a portfolio would have been around 5% lower than MSCI EM, while annualised returns were just over 24% higher. 

Performance                                                      Historical volatility

80% MSCI EM +20% MSCI India vs. MSCI         EM  80% MSCI EM+20% MSCI India vs. MSCI

Base 100= 31/12/2 

Chart 2

Source: MSCI, Bloomberg, Lyxor International AM, data as at 25/02/2019

Volatility calculated on 90 days daily returns, *sample period 31/12/2003 to 25/02/2019. Past performance is no guarantee of future returns  

If like us, you believe India should have a greater weight in EM equity allocations, why not consider our MSCI India ETF? It is the best-performing ETF in this universe and comes with the lowest tracking error in Europe.

Find out more about our Lyxor MSCI India UCITS ETF

All views & opinions: Lyxor ETF Equity strategy teams, as at 01 March 2019 unless otherwise stated. These teams are part of Lyxor International Asset Management.

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