Asian Investor

More Positive Reviews for India Shares


The Indian equity markets are showing signs of recovery, according to Celent, a Boston-based financial research and consulting firm. Although India's equity market capitalisation is still some way off the 2007 high of $3.3 trillion, it is expected to exceed 2008 levels in 2009 at $1.9 trillion, the firm says in its latest report on India shares.

Celent is the latest to sing praises for India's stock market. Earlier this month, Credit Suisse unveiled a new target of 17,000 for India's Bombay Stock Exchange benchmark index (Sensex). In June, BNP Paribas recommended its clients to reduce their exposure to China, which it has lowered to neutral from overweight, and increase their allocations to India, where the bank remains overweight. BNP Paribas' own target for the Sensex is 16,500. The Sensex closed at 15,160.24 on Friday.

The key findings of the Celent report include:

India is one of the main emerging equity markets. The country's leading stock exchange, National Stock Exchange (NSE) is ranked third in terms of the number of equity trades of individual exchanges. The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) is also one of the leading exchanges worldwide, and the Indian market continues to hold further promise, as the economy is expected to grow 5-6% even in the current economic downturn.

The NSE is expected to overtake the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) in market capitalisation in 2009. Already far ahead in turnover, the NSE is expected to further its lead. It has already cornered the exchange-based debt markets and the equity derivatives business and become the exchange of choice in India.

The NSE is preferred by foreign institutional investors (FIIs), while retail investors, domestic brokers, and sub-brokers prefer the BSE. NSE turnover is two times that of the BSE because FIIs hold on to shares for a shorter period of time than their local counterparts.

India's debt market is underdeveloped. In spite of growth, the Indian corporate debt market is far behind developed and emerging economies worldwide. At an expected turnover value of $70 billion in 2009, it is equal to less than 10% of the government debt market.

In the equity derivatives market, volatility has meant that the investors prefer to trade more in index derivatives because they are far more liquid than stock futures and options. Index futures and options now comprise 64% of the trading done in futures and options. Just like equities, the equity derivatives market has also recovered, and the turnover in the fiscal year 2010 is expected to be around $3 trillion, close to the figure in FY 2008. The growth in turnover and volume has made NSE one of the top 10 derivatives exchanges in the world. Having one of the highest growth rates in 2008 (56%), it is expected to do even better in the future. Interestingly, in spite of being more complex a product than cash equity, the equity derivatives market is quite popular with retail investors, and they had more than 50% of the market share consistently throughout the period of June 2008 to May 2009. This bodes well for the breadth of participation in the market.

The equity derivatives market is dominated by the NSE, due to the superior use of technology and better strategy. Also, the NSE has a high growth rate, and it is expected to break into the global top five by volume in the near future. In 2008, it had a trade volume of 590 million contracts and grew by 55.4% over the previous year. This made it the eighth largest derivatives exchange in the world.

Stock futures and options are not very liquid. The stock futures developed as the number of stocks traded has gone up from around 30 to 40 stocks to between 150 and 200. However, stock options are illiquid, except in the case of leading companies, meaning that a lot of transaction volume is driven by a few signatures. This situation could be worrisome in the long run, and there is certainly room for improvement.

Index futures and options dominate the NSE's equity derivatives portfolio. Reasons for this include: recent volatility in the global markets, the participation of retail investors (comprising 53% of the turnover in the NSE in May 2009) in the derivatives market, and the fact that it is easier for investors to use index futures and options.

Currency futures have started promisingly. In the period between October 2008 and June 2009, the total volume traded on the NSE and MCX-SX was 132 million contracts, which compares favourably with 577 million exchange-traded currency futures globally in 2008. The combined monthly volume was above 29 million contracts for the two Indian exchanges.

Interest rate futures are expected to be reintroduced before the end of 2009. The Indian capital markets have been undergoing incremental reform, and once currency futures have established themselves, the Reserve Bank of India, the central bank, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), and the capital market regulator plan to establish new regulations and reintroduce interest rate futures.

For the interest rate futures market to succeed, banks should be allowed to trade. Futures failed miserably in 2003 because the banks were only allowed to hedge. As the main participants in these markets, banks should be allowed to trade and build up the demand-side of the market.

Volatility is high, and a product such as NSE's volatility index would be useful. NSE has come out with a volatility index, which is a market-wide index. At present, it is not available for trading. However, it is important that NSE soon introduce trading in an index because this will be very useful for market modelling and will help investors cope with the uncertain capital markets better.

Foreign institutional investment has begun to reverse its decline in recent months. FII drives the Indian equity markets. There is a high correlation of0.38 between the between the performance of the Sensex and FII over the period of January 2004 and May 2009, and it had been affected by the recent crisis. However, April and May 2009 have been the first months with positive net monthly investment in equity in more than a year. There are signs that these investors are rediscovering their faith in Indian equity markets. The share of Asian FIIs has risen, comprising 25% of all the registered FIIs in India, closely following the US, which has 29%.

The role of domestic institutional investors (DIIs) and the retail investors is becoming more prominent in the Indian markets.

Retail investment will grow as technology improves and reach increases. While it may be some time before the retail investors become the main driver of the markets, they are becoming stronger, and the advent of exchanges such as the NSE and recently, MCX-SX will improve the possibility of domestic savings being invested in capital markets.

Indian capital markets are advanced technologically but need to continuously improve to be competitive internationally. Strategic partnerships with the world's leading exchanges and an understanding of the importance of technology to improve both price and speed, is crucial. The exchanges need to work continuously to ensure they remain attractive destinations for international capital.

Supervision and innovation in the capital markets can be improved. Sebi has done a great job in fostering the rapid development of Indian capital markets. However, market manipulations need to be dealt with severely, and Sebi needs to play a more active role. Due to the late development of the Indian market, the regulator has so far been prudent, but as the Indian markets get more globalised and mature, Sebi could introduce innovations such as alternative trading venues to add breadth to and modernise the Indian capital markets sooner than would have been possible a decade ago.

Market-making should be allowed to provide greater depth and liquidity to the markets. Presently, market-making is not permitted by Sebi, possibly because it might be very complicated to monitor. However, it is an internationally accepted practice that is essential for the development of the markets, and Sebi should introduce it sooner rather than later.

Steve Ballmer, Power Forward
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