Indian equity funds have suffered over €1.1bn worth of outflows over the last six months, but fund managers say the domestically-focussed economy could deliver relative outperformance compared to its emerging market counterparts if global trade war tensions continue to rise.
Ayesha Akbhar, portfolio manager at Fidelity Multi Asset, said investors have gone cold on India in recent months because the macroeconomic data had disappointed expectations.
“Twin deficits have gone up, the currency has gone down, and inflation is on the rise,” he said. “All of these dynamics have the potential to weigh on corporate earnings.”
The Reserve Bank of India raised interest rates in June in a bid to tackle inflation.
Even Jupiter India, an adviser favourite in 2017, has suffered outflows. It lost £18.7m (€20.8) between May and June this year, while during the same period last year, it raked in £128m (€142.8m).
Indian equities net sales
Source: Morningstar Direct
‘An elephnt that’s starting to run’
Discussing India’s economic status in an interview with the Hindustan Times, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “We all know the condition of the economy that we inherited from the previous government. Double-digit inflation, high revenue deficit, high fiscal deficit, a poor health of banking system, stalled projects, thus overall a weak economy.
“We immediately took effective steps to navigate the economy back to the path of reforms.
“The economy is growing at a robust 7.5% plus, all macro indicators are positive, the foreign reserves are well over US$400bn (€350bn). Our economy is being termed as an elephant that’s starting to run. I believe that we are running on the right path.”
Xiaoyu Liu, emerging market equities fund manager at Aviva Investors, who has an overweight position in India and has increased it since last year, argued that India is an attractive equity market, where there are several good companies offering long-term growth potential.
Likewise, Rajendra Nair, manager of the JPMorgan Indian Investment Trust, said he is confident that a gradual recovery is underway, which will be backed by a cyclical recovery in earnings.
He said: “India’s relatively robust showing in June, even as risk assets elsewhere sold off, may be an encouraging sign that investors are looking through the headlines to the potential for an overdue earnings recovery.”
David Cornell, manager of the India Capital Growth Fund, said the launch of Ikea’s first Indian store in Hyderabad was a positive move.
“Not only as it demonstrates Ikea’s view of the opportunity that exists in India, but also because for many years they were reluctant to enter the country despite the potential. This attitude has changed more recently, largely as a consequence of Modi’s reform driven initiatives.”
Positioning for a US-China trade war
Relative to other emerging markets, managers play down the effect of a US-China trade war on India.
Cornell said: “India is a predominantly domestic facing economy with relatively lower exposure to international trade disputes. It will be a defensive bet in this regard.”
Meanwhile, Akbhar said: “Ultimately, I think it’s going to be important for investors over the coming months to consider India in the context of their EM holdings overall – thinking about the role these assets can play in a portfolio in relative terms, rather than being purely positive or negative on the country on an absolute basis.
“Indeed, I think India has the potential to perform well versus other parts of the EM complex (particularly as talk of US-China trade wars continues to impact sentiment on EM overall), but it’s hard to make a strongly compelling case for India in absolute terms.”
She added that while India could be impacted by the trade disputes, but relative to other emerging markets it’s unlikely to suffer the full force.
“For now, President Trump’s eyes are not on India.”
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