Conclusion: Slowing growth and accelerating inflation indeed have interconnected risk compounding in India as the “flows” are currently working against its equity market(s).
Position: Short Indian Equities via the etf IFN.
After making the research call loud and clearly back on November 9th, we added a short position in Indian equities to the Hedgeye Virtual Portfolio this morning, largely in conjunction with our position to short the US Dollar yesterday – an implicit sign of our view on the slope of global inflation: up.
Nothing has changed meaningfully in the supply/demand picture for many commodities that would support prices deflating from current elevated levels in the near term absent dollar strength. To the contrary, panic buying and stockpiling of food in developing nations across the globe only exacerbates the current supply/demand imbalances that are being exploited by a weak dollar in the form of higher prices from Fed-sponsored speculation.
In Bernanke's defense, the dollar can blame its current instability on fiscal policy fundamentals (see: Obama’s weak budget), rather than an Arthur Burns/BOJ-esque monetization of US debt.
Irrespective of Washington politics and global central planning out of the Federal Reserve, Indian stocks will continue to get squeezed in all areas where it matters:
- On the topline: growth will slow from topping out in 4Q10;
- In the margins: +8.23% YoY inflation at twice the government’s projections (and perhaps 3x corporate expectations) and Brent crude oil prices are up +30% YoY (India imports ~70% of its crude oil needs); and
- On the bottom line: short-term interest rates will continue to trend higher as the RBI continues its sluggish reaction to fighting inflation; Yields on 2Y gov’t notes have backed up +74bps since the start of 4Q10.
Our daily analysis of news flow reveals a level of buy-side capitulation on Indian equities:
“Nobody expected the inflation issue to hit so hard so fast.” – Harsha Upadhyaya, PM at UTI Asset Management.
While we’d normally try and fade capitulation, the permanently bullish storytelling around India’s demographics and growth potential will always keep a bid under this market, especially in times of low volatility. Given this, we view the lack of capitulation by some investors such as Mark Mobius as a shorting opportunity into the recent 5-day, +4.6% up move.
On Friday, Mobius had this to say regarding the recent trend in broader emerging markets: “The trend of investors pulling money from emerging markets and increasing bets on stocks in the U.S. and Europe is a short-term event and investors will return because of developing nation’s growth prospects… We are seeing a tremendous inflow in our emerging market funds.”
To Mark’s point about the “flows”, international investors have pulled (-$1.7B) from Indian equities this year, a stark reversal from last year’s 2010 inflow of +$29.3B. It’s paramount to keep in mind that the 2008-09 crash in Indian equity markets was aided by a (-$12.9B) outflow of international capital in 2008.
Domestically, the “flows” are working against Indian equities as well: rising short-term interest rates have Indian money market funds attracting record inflows (+$16B in Jan; roughly 10x the inflow of full-year 2010) as investors shift out of stocks (-$3.5B) and long term bonds funds (-$4.3B) in the first ten months of the fiscal year ending March 31.
As Keith says on nearly every Morning Macro call for the last few months, when the “flows” start going the wrong way, they go fast and it hurts. India's SENSEX is down (-10.9%) YTD already and we see further downside from here.