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Asset Allocation should also include global stocks and mutual funds as a diversification strategy is always better. Its always good to get the best of all global markets.

Break your home bias-page-001

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Indian Equity markets once again touched all time highs by crossing the 28500 level on the BSE SENSEX due to various reasons like structural reforms made by strong government, weak commodity and oil prices, inflation easing further, improvement in macros and continued foreign flows on the back of strong  liquidity conditions overseas

Equities:  The CNX Nifty and CNX Midcap increased by approx. 6% in the last one month. The local market sentiment has remained buoyant through the last few quarters as the market anticipates a strong domestic recovery and lower interest rates in an improving policy environment. Various macro factors like GDP growth, Current Account Deficit (CAD), Fiscal deficit (FD), IIP, WPI and CPI are showing an encouraging trend in FY 2014-15, compared to last year FY 2013.

Featured imageSource:  Citi Research, HDFC MF, Colored rows refer to yearly data; other represent quarterly data

Corporate margins are currently at cyclical lows, and though earnings are still to significantly pick up and may take a few more quarters, better managed companies are starting to show some traction. As corporate margins normalize from depressed levels and as interest rates move lower, current P/Es that look expensive could start to look much more justifiable.

However, it is critical to have a long term horizon for investors buying into equities as always, as there could be volatility in the short term, especially with a consensus positive view on India. A consensus positive view tends to be a good contrarian indicator very often, so having a long term view and holding some cash to buy on corrections could be a good idea.

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While the U.S. continues to normalize its monetary policies, the same does not apply elsewhere. To overcome weakness in Europe, China and Japan, the respective central banks are taking steps towards more monetary easing to stimulate growth in their economies.

Emerging Markets like India and China have adopted a more flexible exchange rate system, increased Foreign Exchange reserves and managed their external debt in an efficient way thus far.

Featured imageSource: MSCI, Credit Suisse, I/B/E/S, FactSet, J.P. Morgan Economics, J.P. Morgan Asset Management “Guide to the Markets – Asia.”

Investors should remain disciplined in maintaining a well-diversified portfolio by investing across domestic and international equities. A global economic recovery should favour equities, especially emerging markets like India and China that are likely to benefit from a global recovery.  Both emerging markets and developed markets should benefit as a result.

Over the long term, the INR should continue to depreciate vs. the USD at nearly the rate of inflation differential between India and US (last 30 years CAGR of INR depreciation vs USD is 5.5 %; inflation differential between India and US is 4.8%). Therefore, we continue to recommend building international exposure in the portfolio for the purpose of diversification and act as a hedge against currency risk.

Fixed Income: While the equity market is on a high, there are good investment opportunities that we foresee in the fixed income market. There are various factors that impact inflation and the table below shows that they are moderating:

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Investors should start looking at bonds and bond funds (a combination of short, medium and long term options would be recommended, depending upon investment objectives and risk appetite) as a means of hedging their future reinvestment risks.

Globally the gap between US &Indian interest rates is currently high, yet, a sharper than expected reversal in US interest rates could lead to volatility / challenges for the Indian fixed income markets as well. Foreign portfolio flows into debt have also been at a high for many months now, as can be seen from the graph below, and thus investors need to be cautious about any reversal in fund flows. Thus maintaining a long term view on fixed income investments (18-36 months) wouldalso be crucial.

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CPI inflation eased to a series-low 5.5% in October 2014 from 6.5% in September 2014 in year-on-year (y-o-y) terms.  This primarily reflected a sharp decline in food inflation to 5.8% in October 2014 from 7.6% in September 2014, even as core inflation was unchanged at 5.9%.

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Source: CSLO, ICRA Research

However, RBI may not cut the rates in the upcoming monetary policy in December unless they are very sure of achieving CPI inflation target of 6% by January’2016. In addition, it may want to reward investors with continued positive real returns of between 1%-1.5% p.a. over and above inflation, which should help monies move from physical assets like real estate and gold to fixed income instruments as well.

Gold: Gold may continue to see downward pressure globally, with weak commodity prices, and less fear amongst global investors. The government has removed gold import restrictions in spite of the fact that gold imports went up significantly in the last festive month to $3.75 billion. Hence, allocating only a small portion of your investments into this asset class continues to be a good strategy in our view.

We came across a very interesting table recently showing the returns on CAGR basis and the risk measured by standard deviation over 1, 3 and 5 years holding periods of the BSE SENSEX, 1 year SBI Fixed deposit (FD) and Gold in INR terms for the last 30 years:

Featured imageSource: Bloomberg, HDFC MF

As you can see from the above data that:

FDs vs Gold: Fixed deposit returns are very close to the Gold returns in the last 30 years; however the volatility or risk in gold is much higher compared to the risk in FD. Hence, Gold is not a superior option compared to FDs to invest in from a risk perspective.

Equities vs Gold:  Long term returns on equities are much higher than returns on gold (appreciation in Sensex was 5x of gold*). Volatility of equity returns is high but to a lesser extent (3x over 3 year holding periods and 2x over 5 year holding periods). Equities are therefore a superior asset class compared to gold for long term investments and for those with tolerance to volatility.

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India equity markets celebrated Diwali in style, with the Nifty regaining the 8,000 mark and the Sensex moving above 27000.

There was plenty of positive news flow from India like the Government announcing a series of policy reforms including diesel deregulation, gas price hikes and e-auction of the cancelled coal blocks. The victory of the BJP in the Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana too buoyed sentiments.

Equity:

Nifty increased by 1.02% whereas CNX Midcap increased by 1.44% during the month.

The Price to Equity ratios continues to show that equity market valuations are above 20 Year average and it is therefore critical to see earnings pick up to justify current valuations . Early signs show that it is starting to happen as you can from the chart below on both PAT and EBITDA margins for Nifty companies:

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Source: Motilal Oswal Research, 2014

In the graph below it is very clear that investment growth has picked up recently in India compared to some of the other emerging markets (like Brazil, Russia and Mexico), but needs to rise further for economic growth to improve structurally.

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Source: Morgan Stanley Research, October 2014

Global economic growth woes continued – the IMF downgraded its economic outlook on the globe due to weaker than expected global activity in the first half of 2014, along with ongoing Middle East tensions, the Ukrainian and Russian standoff, along with the Hong kong political unrest. The new epidemic disease Ebola is also a big concern in U.S, African and European countries. News from Europe also continues to be challenging. The US ended its bond buying program but maintained its stances on keeping interest rates low for a considerable period, in line with market expectations. Whilst it is very tempting to move to a 100% domestic portfolio in this environment, we continue to recommend to have at least 10% of the portfolio invested globally for the purpose of global diversification, as well as act as a hedge against currency risk.

With projections of GDP growth of 5.5 percent in FY 2014–15 and 6.5 percent in the following year, Q2 2014 GDP growth came at 5.7%, above the consensus expectations. We believe that the Indian economy is on the cusp of a growth uptrend and this will contribute to growth in corporate earnings as we have shown in our charts above in this article and hence will justify strong performance of Indian equities, especially with oil and commodity prices coming off. However, it is critical to keep you asset allocation intact.

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Source: MSCI, Credit Suisse, I/B/E/S, FactSet, J.P. Morgan Economics, J.P. Morgan Asset Management “Guide to the Markets – Asia.”

Fixed Income

CPI inflation eased to a series-low 6.5% in September 2014 from  7.8% in August 2014 in year-on-year (y-o-y) terms and Core-CPI inflation (excluding food, beverages & tobacco and fuel & light) declined significantly to a series-low of 5.9% in September 2014 from 6.9% in August 2014 (refer chart below)

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Source: CSO, ICRA Research

Inflation related to fuel & light moderated to 3.5% in September 2014 from 4.2% in August 2014 in y-o-y terms. Softening of prices of various commodities including crude oil and domestic fuel prices would benefit the CPI trajectory in the near term and hence we continue to expect the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) January 2015 target of restricting CPI inflation below 8.0% to be achieved.

Nevertheless, the probability of a Repo rate cut in 2014-15 remains low, as the RBI is likely to continue to focus on containing inflationary expectations to improve the likelihood of restricting CPI inflation below the January 2016 target of 6.0%.

The below chart shows the Interest rate differentials between US and India:

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Source: Axis Mutual Fund

There is a fear that higher US rates will draw FII money away from India. This is not borne out by history. During 2004-06 even with rate hikes money continued to flow into India from FIIs. Secondly, back in 2004 at the start of the cycle, US rates were at 1% and Indian rates were at 4.5% implying a 350 bps differential. By the end of the Fed rate hikes, the rates were respectively 5.25% and 6.50% implying a differential of just 125 bps. In contrast currently the US is close to zero (officially the overnight target is 0 to 0.25%), while RBI is at 8%, a differential of nearly 800 bps.

Hence, we recommend having the fixed income portion of the portfolio comprising of both accrual and duration strategies where accrual strategies will lock into current high interest rates and duration strategies will start benefitting once the interest rates start coming off over the next 12-24 months.

Gold:

Demand for Gold has seen a rebound in recent days in India and China. India celebrated Diwali, the biggest gold buying festival  which boosted physical demand for the yellow metal on support of low prices. Meanwhile, a surge in Gold imports pushed up the India’s trade deficit for September to $14.25 billion of which Gold imports accounts for $3.75 billion. This raises questions on whether there can be some quantitative restrictions or higher import duties put on gold , to bring down the demand. Hence, allocating only a smaller portion of your portfolio in Gold continues to be a prudent strategy.

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