When it comes to emerging markets, the "I" in BRIC has been the biggest overall disappointment. Bogged down by its intense bureaucratic red-tape and inefficiencies, India hasn’t exactly lived up to its potential despite having all the hallmarks of an amazing investment, such as a huge, growing middle and consumer class.
That is until this year.
Running on the back of huge game-changing election and the election of a business-friendly refomer, Indian equities have surged 26% this year. That makes them one of the best-performing stock markets around. And yet, more gains could be in store for longer-minded investors as the new India finally begins to take shape. (For more, see: An Introduction to the Indian Stock Market.)
A Business-Friendly Refomer
The current upwards swing of the Indian stock market could be attributed to one thing: the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India has traditionally thrived in spite of its government. Unfortunately, since the end of the Great Recession, that hasn’t held true as the previous administration. Corruption has reigned supreme, as did an unfriendly environment to outside investors. Modi has pledged to run on a platform of boosting infrastructure spending, job growth and ending stubbornly high inflation as well as curbing corruption.
So far, Modi is delivering on his promises.
Recent reforms include allowing 100% investment by foreigners in India’s critical railways and other infrastructure like power and water. Modi also opened up both the nation’s banking and defense industries to foreign direct investment (FDI). As for combating inflation, on the local level the newly appointed government de-listed various fruits and vegetables from India’s Agricultural Produce Market Committees Act. That exempts these foods from food price manipulation. On a macro level, the appointment Raghuram Rajan as governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has reestablished the RBI’s reputation as an inflation-fighting central bank.
And those promises are paying off in spades.
Since taking office, India’s GDP has surged 5.7%. That’s the fastest pace that the Indian economy has grown since late 2011/early 2012. Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (GS) reported that earnings for stocks within the nation have improved in lock-step with the quick moving economic picture.
With India finally firing on all cylinders, it can finally deliver on its long term promise by capitalizing on its large and young workforce, rising consumer wealth and strong domestic economy. Add in a wealth of high tech exports, as well as various commodities, and you have a real recipe for success. (For more, see: Investing in India: Strategies and Top ETF.)
Making a Play For a Reformed India
Given India’s return to glory, investors may want to consider overweighting the nation in their portfolios. A prime way to do that is through the WisdomTree India Earnings (EPI). The ETF remains the most popular India fund with nearly $2 billion dollars in assets and trading volume of around 4 million shares. That’s nearly double — on both accounts — versus competitor funds, such as the iShares India 50 (INDY) and PowerShares India (PIN).
The key could be EPI’s smart-beta strategy of focusing on earnings and profitability, rather than just traditional market-cap weightings. Its underlying index of stocks is weighted based on their earnings in the prior fiscal year. Currently, EPI has 229 holdings with Reliance Industries and Infosys Ltd. (INFY) as top holdings. This focus has also resulted in EPI outperforming PIN, INDY and the iShares MSCI India (INDA) by a wide margin. EPI is up nearly 67% over the last year. (For more, see: Building a Better Mousetrap with Smart Beta ETFs.)
Much of India’s promise stems from its huge domestic and consumer economy. That could make its small-caps a huge long term opportunity as Modi’s reforms transform the nation. The Market Vectors India Small-Cap ETF (SCIF) tracks 101 different Indian small-caps. Consumer names make up around 28% of its total holdings as does financial firms. Micro-banking continues to make its way into many Indian communities. Expenses for SCIF run 0.93%. (For more, see: India Through ETFs.)
Finally, much of India’s issues and what Modi has pledged to fix is its poor infrastructure systems. Already, his decision to open up these markets is paying off, with Japan announcing new investment of up to $33 billion into India’s railways, roads and electrical grid. All of this could boost the EGShares India Infrastructure ETF (INXX). The ETF bets on 29 firms across not only the operating of various infrastructure assets, but the building of these facilities as well.
The Bottom Line
After a few years of disappointment, change has come to India. The major election win of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the spark that will send Indian equities higher and up to their potential. For investors, the time could be right to be on the emerging market nation for the long haul. (For more, see: Top 10 Factors when Buying Country ETFs.)