Monday, December 21, 2015

When our dirty & Ill - timed Internal politics supersedes the External economic push!

Brent Crude trading at ~ $36/barrel and West Texas Intermediate at sub $35/barrel, these prices are so encouraging for country like India which imports more than 70% of its energy needs that multi-year floored crude prices would directly give the economy a great impetus. A push that would be so needed to raise our growth trajectory in 8 - 9% range. A range of growth which is achievable with little help from our internal political parties' consents. One of the reform which would steal the lime light would be the passage of GST. A standardized tax applicable on all goods and services. We have a structure ready with deliberations on. But if these deliberations are held in a manner that it blocks the logical flow of action then it's appalling. GST's implementation is doing the rounds for quiet sometime now and when finally it seems happening and the act getting enacted and formulated with all nitty gritties being discussed, National Herald happened.

When the government wanted GST so badly to make the "Make in India" campaign successful and other schemes launched by our ambitious PM a story to remember, this revelation of National Herald (NH) Scam was badly timed. Understand this, the scam has already happened, facts and figures are known, the alleged convicts are known and they are here to stay and you can get hold of them yet again but revelation in the beginning of the winter session was really pathetically timed. Why timing is critical because we have yet again lost a complete session of our Parliament which was so needed because of this NH Scam revelation.

GST lost to NH Scam. We are left with 3 working days of winter session and other amendments, enactments and policies are lined up, lets see how can the government push for the same. Gandhis were summoned on 19th Dec, if they were summoned on 9th January, 2016 what could have changed? Atleast we could have saved our winter session of parliament. When the government knew that anything but GST is so desired they should have played smart.

Anyways, in BJP vs Cong tussle the economy was punished and hence, we are loosing at least 4-6 months of time before we get the desired and much needed reforms to get tabled and discussed. One should realize that the external economic factors are not in anyone's hand, hence, to get their act together it is important to be prudent and get the maximum out of the external factors. With USA now in line to start exporting its Crude oil after four decades, India might again be reaping benefits in the coming months.

Timing and Prudence are very critical factors that the Government should now take a note of, else we would yet again miss a growth propelling decade.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Devaluation war - A 'Never Before Chance' to amend Reform Trajectory

With gigantic pressure on Chinese counterparts to make their economy (export driven) look more robust and attractive, a plunge of more than 3% vis a vis US $ (1.9% -  Chinese govts' push and remainder is markets' reaction) has taken the global economies and policy makers by surprise.

Where on one side US Fed's rate hike was a talk of town, suddenly we have another mega event which has been doing some rounds now across global markets, and that is the "Currency War" which may get trickle down to a situation where economies challenge each others currencies' devaluation for no good. But what happens now? What should India do now? And, why is this a 'Never Before Chance' for a country like India?

With a massive demographic advantage and with lots of push by the GOI (Govt. of India) to enable the Small and Medium enterprises to become a viable business proposition, focussing on this segment more would be of ultra importance. Just launching of schemes and formation of institutes like MUDRA would not make a massive difference but hand holding these small entrepreneurs will. India as an economy would get a much required impetus to touch that 8-10% GDP growth target YOY if and only if we can incubate these small ideas. A logjam in our Parliament would only add insult to injury. Scumming to opposition's' tactics would only drag our last chance to be a responsible superpower on this globe.

Inflation; both Wholesale and Consumer Price Index are under control, crude is dripping below its lowest lows in past few weeks and being a mega importer of energy we are in a comfortable Current and Fiscal deficit conditions, hence, waging a currency war with other global currencies would not be feasible option for India. It would increase our fuel bill and dent out low deficits. Putting us in a catch 22 situation. This situation demands a more focussed domestic approach. Push GST, break the democratically hurting logjam, consensus on Land Acquisition Bill and capping the NPAs is the way we should focus more on.

Chinese government's' acts /US Fed's rate hike/ drag in commodities prices can dent us and impact our economy a bit but to keep the adrenalin running we need to have a stable domestic economy and reforms' agenda running without any man-made disasters(Parliament Logjam). Investors know where to put their money (India is still the most preferred destination among the other BRICS nations) but being responsible is the call of an hour. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Volatility - An unsustainable Goliath

Last financial year, be it from a January - December period or April - March period, was a year with great returns for investors in bourses across the globe. Indices across globe gave returns of around 15 - 40 % on an average, the best performing asset class for the investors. Metals lost sheen, crude starting plummeting ( Short Bets though minted a lot but took brokers by surprise initially) but bourses were the best return reapers for the brokers/investors.

Though it seems like that bourses would yet again be the best return minting instrument but the imbibed volatility of indices makes it really tricky for a retail investor to track the markets. Algorithmic trading with massive bets makes it really intriguing for the retail investors to gauge the momentum and that is where they burn their fingers. I dont have the precise numbers right now with Retail investors'/FII's or DII's gain/loss percentage, but the implied volatility has kept the small and brittle investors on their toes.

This year with Greece's oust almost inevitable, until a dramatic treaty is signed with the creditors in couple of weeks, US Fed's unavoidable interest rate hike lined up in 2-4 months, China's stability concerns, Yemen's stability and crude's supply concerns and domestic economy's reliance on global trade, it is said to be a year of big bang Volatilities.

In India, the upcoming monsoon's 8-10% deficit prediction would be of a big worry as well. Where on one hand, the effects of Modi's 1 year regime is still not visible on the ground, unsustained nature's bait (unseasonal rains and recent earthquake's destruction) would add on to the already volatile markets.

This year without knowing where the markets would actually move, one thing is for sure that the movements would be massive and would be unsustainable for atleast the retail investors.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

BUDGET 2015-16 – A mere display of Intent or enroute to Fiscal Solidarity?

A fortnight after the Budget 2015-16 was read out by the Finance Minister, it can be described as a budget with an enormous display of intent. A Budget that guides what the Indian Economy should achieve but the concrete plan to reach that level is still imaginary (relying on the numbers presented is debatable).

Restricting Fiscal deficit numbers at 3.9% of GDP for 2015-16 and total stake sale in the Public Sector Enterprises at more than INR 69,000 Crores is envisaged through disinvestment. With this fiscal year’s revised target is brought down significantly, reaching an ambitious plan for 2015-16 is questionable.

Reduction in corporate Taxes from 30% to 25% in the coming four fiscal years is a booster for the Private enterprises, this would lead them to invest more in infrastructure and creating capital for future needs. Also there are exemptions being removed, but we need to wait for sometime before we get clarity on the same.

Different governments come with different schemes and the previously established schemes with same objective but with different names get oblivion. An example below of an editorial says all:

It announces grand new schemes even as others in the same area that were announced just last year are yet to see the light of the day. So we are to have a new Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency Bank, with a corpus of Rs 20,000 crore, but the Rs 10,000 crore entrepreneurship fund for the same sector that the finance minister announced in his first budget is nowhere to be seen.” – EPW Editorial from 7th March, 2015 publication.

The integrity of the numbers presented in the Budget is always under scanner. Finance Minister believes that our country can grow at 8% of GDP in next couple of years, I don’t think that can it be a reality with a stalled Upper House? Can it be possible with an Ordinance route taken up by the Government? Is it achievable when our PSBs need ~INR1.6 Lakh Crores for capitalization to meet the Basel III standards? You can pose many other questions but the fact of the matter is, it’s imperative to be practical. Through sentiments and intent display an economy cannot grow. The first visible change on the ground is raising the cap of FDI in insurance from 26% to 49%. There is nothing concrete except it. You can ask me to be more patient and give the government some more time but with Land Acquisition Bill stalled and all the chaos around it, I can only be hopeful.

Also, hopeful on the integrity of the fiscal deficit number’s achievement and the disinvestment target’s ambitious numbers. Let’s see where the contours of this Budget lead us to.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Swiss National Bank's currency cap removal and It's effect on Indian Economy

Swiss National Bank (SNB) surprised the global markets with its 1.20Franc(CHF)/Euro(EUR) exchange cap removal. No one factored in such a surprise move and it resulted in Franc's appreciation by upto 30-35% in just few seconds. 

With such drastic step taken by the SNB, in short term, it would definitely hurt their luxurious export oriented products manufacturing as well as the tourism industry. Rapid appreciation of currency in few hours can be detrimental to the export driven economy with huge reliance also on the tourism front.

But was this step necessary to be taken? SNB in its statement made it all crystal clear.

"The minimum exchange rate was introduced during a period of exceptional overvaluation of the Swiss franc and an extremely high level of uncertainty on the financial markets. This exceptional and temporary measure protected the Swiss economy from serious harm. While the Swiss franc is still high, the overvaluation has decreased as a whole since the introduction of the minimum exchange rate. The economy was able to take advantage of this phase to adjust to the new situation. Recently, divergences between the monetary policies of the major currency areas have increased significantly – a trend that is likely to become even more pronounced. The euro has depreciated considerably against the US dollar and this, in turn, has caused the Swiss franc to weaken against the US dollar. In these circumstances, the SNB concluded that enforcing and maintaining the minimum exchange rate for the Swiss franc against the euro is no longer justified." 

The Quantitative Easing which in next few weeks would become a reality in Europe would further weaken the Euro and so accumulating the Euro on its ballooning balance sheet would be more of a liability. Hence, removing the cap would be a long term measure for sustainability.

What it means for India? Structurally, India is poised for a tremendous growth trajectory with a persistent focus on manufacturing and infrastructure. If required, ordinance route can be used to keep up the pace for developmental reforms (though it is debatable, as ordinances stifle the democratic structure). These factors make India poised to receive hot money that would be disseminated by the QE in Europe. Losing the sheen as a safe investment destination by the Swiss can be a boon for the emerging economies, especially India which has the engines revved up for the coming 3-4 years.

But with the rosy picture comes the unenthusiastic scenario as well. The Hot Money we are talking about is not sustainable money pouring in the economy. It can create bubbles which in turn generates ripples in the economy that may be tremendously harmful. This fact has been reiterated by Dr. Rajan at various platforms and this is where the regulators and the government should focus more upon. Encourage Foreign Direct Investments than Foreign Institutional Investments.