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Posts Tagged ‘QE’

For the uninitiated, the Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean lying between Africa and Asia. Thanks to the announcements of the Federal Reserve in the US late last night, and Ben Bernanke’s very clear commentary of how he expects the Federal Reserve to run its monetary policy over the next 18 months or so, the Red Sea shifted to financial markets today.

From equity markets to currencies to bond markets, there was a sea of red across the screens in markets today, be they emerging markets or developed markets. Whilst it is widely believed that market participants hate uncertainty, it seemed that they hate certainty even more. The statement and timetable from the Fed essentially covered two items

1. A tapering off of fresh buying of securities from the current level of USD 85 billion per month that they are at currently starting from later this year. Most analysts seem to expect that to be around September 2013.

2. A gradual end to all buying of securities which could happen by mid 2014.

Of course, this is provided that unemployment in the US gets lower and inflation starts to rise. There is now an expectation that interest rates in the US start to move up from end 2014, early 2015.

Whilst none of this was unexpected, the clarity seemed to have upset market participants, who wanted to run to the safety of the US dollar and US treasuries.

Whilst this reaction could well continue for a while longer as different constituents look at these events through their own prisms and risk comes off, and also move further to US treasuries where yields become more attractive, past experience indicates that events of these kind, though negative in the short term, create opportunities for investors to rebalance their portfolios, both amongst asset classes and within asset classes.

Over the last thirty years, yields on US treasuries have moved up substantially multiple times. In over two thirds of these instances, this has resulted in gains for equities as well,  especially in Asia. Such events provide entry opportunities to add exposure to equities.

It would be interesting to look at this from a historical perspective. Over the last thirty years, yields on US treasuries have moved up substantially multiple times. In over two thirds of these instances, this has resulted in gains for equities as well, especially in Asia. Thus, investors need to look at opportunities provided by events of this kind to add exposure to emerging market equities, especially as valuations are reasonable. For example, Indian markets currently quote at a trailing price to book of 2.7 against a historical average of 3.6. Ditto with forward price earning ratios, which are currently at about 14 times, against a historical average of 16 times. With most investors already underweight on Indian equities in their portfolios, we think this is a good time to start buying. In addition, cooling oil and gold prices could be great for the Current Account Deficit that has everyone in India so worried today, providing a further kicker to equities.

Other parts of Asia also seem to have similar valuation opportunities, with a very large part of Asia quoting at a significant discount to long term averages on both PE and PB parameters. Whilst buying equities is always fraught with downside risks over short periods of time, buying at reasonable valuations has always played out well over the long term. Building a diversified portfolio across emerging market equities is recommended, even though it may be tempting due to a home bias, to run a 100% domestic equities portfolio for Indian investors. Investors can also look at equities in markets like the US where a recovery could kick start a virtuous cycle, driven by corporate sitting on cash rich balance sheets, at higher levels than ever before.

On the fixed income side, with the Indian rupee under pressure due to the strength of the US dollar, and inflation likely to reemerge, interest rate cuts could get slower and less predictable, making it important that investors use a combination of both duration strategies like income and dynamic funds, as well as accrual strategies like short term bond  funds, and deposits in their portfolio. In case they were overweight duration strategies, they need to rebalance.

Gold hit a two and a half year low, and whilst it could be tempting for investors to add further to their portfolio, the significant exposure that most Indian portfolios already have to gold through a combination of jewelry and investments, would make it difficult to recommend further exposure.

Whilst it is very tempting to stay out of financial markets at this stage and come back later, market timing simply does not seem to work. So stay invested and keep investing. Of course this assumes you’re in it for the long term.

Ultimately, if you go to North India in summer, you know its going to be very hot. You don’t panic because the temperature has gone above 45 degrees Celsius.

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