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FIIs go slow on Indian equities in July

LiveMint logoLiveMint 02-08-2017 Ami Shah

Mumbai: Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) pumped around $388 million into Indian shares in July, the lowest since April, staying on the sidelines for signs of recovery in corporate earnings amid concerns over stretched valuations.

Global emerging markets equity fund managers also continued to cut their allocations to India even as emerging markets at large continued to receive strong inflows, fund-flow tracker EPFR Global said in a statement dated 27 July. 

So far this year, India equity funds have attracted over $10 billion, but the average GEM (global emerging markets) fund allocation is currently at its lowest level since the early second quarter of 2015, the fund-flow tracker said.

EPFR fund flow data is a sub-set of the larger FII data available from National Securities Depository Ltd. (NSDL).

EPFR’s data mainly tracks mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, closed-end funds, variable annuity funds and insurance-linked funds. The flows reported by NSDL also include investments by hedge funds, proprietary desks and sovereign wealth funds.

“FIIs have been relatively overweight India. However, they were cautious before the quarterly earnings numbers, which were expected to be relatively muted ahead of the implementation of GST (The Goods & Services Tax),” said Rikesh Parikh, vice-president of equities at Motilal Oswal Financial Services Ltd. 

“Post earnings, they are seen revising their stance, and pour in more money,” added Parikh. Others seemed to agree. 

“Most global EM funds remain overweight on India and we saw about $400 million of net buying from FIIs in July. High valuations have deterred huge buys. However, the overall view on India is positive, with many FIIs waiting for a correction to buy more of Indian equities,” said Pratik Gupta, head of equities, Deutsche Bank India Pvt. Ltd. 

Corporate earnings growth in the June quarter has been sluggish, as de-stocking and discounts ahead of the implementation of GST hit profits. 

Lack of matching earnings growth has pushed up valuations further. BSE’s Sensex trades at 18.82 times one-year forward earnings, compared to its five-year and 10-year historical average of 15.08 times and 14.96 times. 

“That said, they (FIIs) weren’t selling. There was some sector rotation, but that’s about it. The market remained supported by inflows from mutual funds though,” added Parikh.  Despite FIIs staying on the sidelines, the India market posted its best performance last month since March 2016, with the Sensex gaining 5.15% in July. 

Mutual funds bought a net of Rs. 8,129.22 crore of shares since the start of the month to 28 July, but other domestic institutional investors (DIIs) were sellers. Net DII investment for the month was Rs. 4,786.37 crore. 

The relatively smooth implementation of GST has boosted investor confidence. This, coupled with normal monsoon rain, bodes well for India’s near-term outlook. 

“Looking forward, the outlook for local inflows into equities appears strong given falling interest rates and the relatively better prospects vs real estate/gold. Globally as well, we expect EM risk appetite to be sustained. However, watch out for big equity issuance that may limit near term upside to the market,” said Gupta.

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