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Morgan Stanley says ‘party’s just begun’ for Indian stock funds

LiveMint logoLiveMint 28-09-2017 Ameya Karve

Mumbai: The recent flood of cash into Indian stock funds is just the beginning, as the nation’s growing savings chase equity returns amid decreasing appetite for gold, property and fixed income, according to Morgan Stanley.

“We’ve just started, the party has just begun,” said Ridham Desai, managing director at Morgan Stanley India Co. Pvt. The nation’s total financial savings are still low at 9% of the gross domestic product (GDP) compared with a peak of 14.5% about eight years ago, and the government’s push for pension funds to invest in stocks should drive flows even higher, Desai said at a press conference on Wednesday in Mumbai.

Inflows to Indian stock funds have remained positive for 17 straight months, starting in April 2016 and reaching an all-time high of Rs20,400 crore ($3.1 billion) in August. In turn, domestic funds were net purchasers of Indian equities for 13 consecutive months, touching a record Rs17,900 crore in August.

This liquidity has helped offset the negative impact from overseas investors, who are poised for a fourth straight month of net selling in September amid valuation concerns. Sentiment worsened after the latest quarterly GDP data showed that the economy grew at the slowest pace in more than three years.

The S&P Sensex index is trading at 20 times projected earnings for the current year, the highest level in seven years, and higher than the S&P 500’s multiple of 19 times. Part of the reason is that Indian corporate profits have been hit by India’s decision to replace 86% of its currency bills in November as well as the introduction of a new national goods and services tax (GST) in July. At the same time, money has poured into stocks amid low interest rates on bonds and declining appeal for property and gold in the wake of demonetisation.

Still, Morgan Stanley believes that Indian stocks aren’t very expensive, and it expects a rebound in economic growth and company earnings.

“If we look at Indian stocks relative to the interest rates and relative to other markets, actually the valuations are not at all stretched,” Desai said. “We are fairly sanguine about earnings as the dust settles down on GST in the next 12 months, and it’s quite possible that the government’s revenue collection exceeds targets, setting the stage for higher spending that will be eventually good for growth,” he said.

Morgan Stanley estimates earnings for Sensex companies will rise 11% in the year ending March 2018 and 19% in the next financial year. It sees the country’s economy growing at an average 7.1% annually for the next 10 years.

“India has successfully institutionalized equity savings, and the domestic flows have stood the tests of disrupting events such as demonetization and the GST,” Desai said. “I don’t think the structural nature of these flows will change, though there will be cyclical ups and downs.” Bloomberg

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