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US sneezes, India catches a cold

Rajiv Bhuva     August 8, 2011
Full disclosure, first: This headline, or at least the idea behind it, was last seen regularly in pink dailies in the 2001-02 period.

Then, it was the dot-com bubble burst and the NASDAQ was the index to watch in the US. The NASDAQ would tank there, and Indian markets took lead there from. It is exactly the same now, though the differences are stark.

It is a sovereign prompted fall in the Western developed and emerging economies, including India, which are taking cues from overnight developments in the West.

Sensex plunges on US rating downgrade, uncertainty mars trading


But a quick look at the bleeding indices gives some respite. While India is down 3 per cent, Korea-Hong Kong and Singapore are down by over 4 to 5 per cent, each.

That's not a reason to cheer. But respite comes from a few factors, though high inflation coupled with high interest rates and a strengthening rupee as the dollar weakens are spoil sports.

TRACK MARKETS LIVE

A research note on Asian markets from Royal Bank of Scotland reads: "In India, the RBI deputy governor (Subir) Gokarn said over the weekend that a fall in commodity prices is likely to impact the pace of rate hikes and that the central bank remains concerned about managing liquidity in the economy, signaling a possible pause in the next policy meeting in September." That's respite number one.

Rajiv Bhuva
The other comfort comes from the slowing sub-8 per cent GDP growth that India is projected to clock. From a medium- to long-term perspective, these developments highlight the higher growth trajectory of India, versus low to no growth in the developed economies, and should lead to more capital inflows to India.

According to Parul Saini, India Strategist at Royal Bank of Scotland, coming into this calendar year, Indian equities had high valuations, and were not adequately pricing in the macro-economic concerns around high oil prices and inflation. In addition, the numerous corruption-related allegations did lead to a slowdown in the government's policy and decision making.

Indian markets join global sell-off


But, going forward, Singapore-based Saini believes valuations are more reasonable, the government's policy inertia is thawing, and rates are close to peaking out. "As such, we expect India to outperform its regional peers from here."

So, fundamental differences, which do have some positives, should keep panic away from investors in India. That however does not qualify for neglecting the developments.

But these dips do make interesting entry points for those who look to stay invested for long term. Though 2008 - when the Sensex lost more than 60 per cent in value to 8,000 or so, in a little less than 10 months - is not a distant memory, a slide in the markets as terrible as it was then is not likely this time.

The downgrade of US sovereign credit by S&P on Friday reflects facts that have been well known to the market for some time.

PERSPECTIVE: What US credit rating downgrade means for India

"So, it does not imply a fundamental increase in risk, and we don't believe that investors should change their behaviour based solely on the downgrade," says a release from New York-headquartered BlackRock, an investment management and advisory firm.

"However, in combination with continued economic weakness and regulatory uncertainty, this may provide a signal to some investors to reassess their risk appetite."

To sum up, risks are undoubtedly heightened and only sane investing decisions will be triumphant.

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