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The year so far has been marked by a surprisingly strong rally with the S&P 500 US index up by 9% and scaling new highs each week. While the year did begin with some uncertainty around President Trump’s policies, the markets are expecting that the Trump administration will deliver on its promises to boost infra spending, abolish taxes on exports and cut corporate tax rates by as much as 15%. The incoming macro data from the US has been better than expected The new regime in the US is broadly in favour of deregulation and reforms in critical areas such as Food & Drugs Administration to hasten the approval process of new drugs. Visa related issues will be in the limelight but Trump’s focus on ‘skill-based’ immigration may not be too negative for countries like India.Meanwhile, in Europe the rights of EU citizens in the United Kingdom (UK) is emerging as a key negotiating point in the Brexit talks. There are expectations that the UK Prime Minister, will favour a ‘soft’ Brexit and will make some concessions in securing rights of European Union (EU) nationals in the UK. Global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth is expected to pick-up in 2017 and expected to be positive for commodity exporters. Even in countries like Japan, core inflation has returned for the first time in over two years. Investors broadly expect Chinese data to remain solid in 2017 in the build up to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in autumn this year. Since the beginning of the year, metals have moved up as China – the world’s largest producer clamps down on pollution. Globally, macro data is improving gradually and further fuelled the stock market rally.
At home, markets stayed strong in the month of February led by strong foreign inflows and better than expected Q3 earnings season despite demonetisation. The Union Budget unveiled in the month stressed on rural & social sector spending apart from adhering to the fiscal consolidation path. In state elections, Punjab, Goa and Uttarakhand completed polling while UP concluded its phase 5 polling.Nifty-50 Index ended with 3.7% gains in February. Realty, IT & Infrastructure were the key outperformers in Feb while Autos, Utilities and Metals were the main laggards. IT was back in the investor’s radar with buyback announcement from TCS prompting similar expectations from other such cash rich IT firms.Deal activity picked up in Feb with 14 deals amounting to ~$1.8bn dominated by secondary market. This was largely led by the Government’s 2% stake sale in ITC (~$993mn). Government’s 5% stake sale in Bharat Electronics ($253mn) via OFS and Providence’s 3.3% stake sale in Idea ($192mn) being the notable ones.Foreign Portfolio Investors (FPIs) turned notable net buyers in Feb with around $1.4bn of net inflows. Domestic investors were marginal buyers of around US$60mn during the month.March would be dictated firstly by the outcome of the state elections currently underway. Secondly the Fed policy mid-month would have a bearing on all emerging markets including India. Of late there have been a number of announcements on asset disposal efforts by debt-laden corporates. Any positive rub off for the banking system would be another trigger the market will set its sights on.
On the macro front, Consumer Price Index (CPI) reached record low led by the drop in food inflation while core remained sticky. RBI left the policy rates unchanged in the February policy meet. The surprise however was the shift in policy stance from “accommodative” to “neutral” post 2 years of easing cycle dampening hopes of near term repo rate reduction.Due to this surprise, the Fixed Income markets saw yields rising in the month of February. Yield on the 10-year bond moved north to 6.87% from 6.41% in January. The Rupee appreciated by 1.7% to 66.69 on February 28, 2017 from 67.87 on January 31, 2017.Index of Industrial Production (IIP) declined 0.4% in December vs 5.7% growth in November, partly led by contraction in manufacturing and demonetisation hitting consumption demand.CPI fell further in January to a 5-yr low of 3.2% vs 3.4% in December while the divergence in headline & core CPI persisted. The drop in vegetable prices was seasonal while pulses were down due to anticipation of strong Rabi output. The core inflation was flattish at 5.1%. In contrast, the Wholesale Price Inflation (WPI) moved up to 5.25% vs 3.39% in December led by spike in fuel & power inflation while the food inflation remained subdued.CPI fell further in January to a 5-yr low of 3.2% vs 3.4% in December while the divergence in headline & core CPI persisted. The drop in vegetable prices was seasonal while pulses were down due to anticipation of strong Rabi output. The core inflation was flattish at 5.1%. In contrast, the Wholesale Price Inflation (WPI) moved up to 5.25% vs 3.39% in December led by spike in fuel & power inflation while the food inflation remained subdued.Government unveiled the FY18 Union Budget with focus on rural and social sector spending. Centre also stuck to the fiscal consolidation path with FY18 fiscal deficit target at 3.2% of GDP vs 3.5% in FY17. Revenue growth of 7% was balanced with expenditure growth (7%). In the near term Federal Reserve rate decision, movement of Indian Rupee, FPI flows, Global events especially dollar movement and commodity price movements will be watched for future cues on interest rates.
Max Life aggregate AUM crossed Rs 40,000 crores and witnessed 20% growth on rolling year basis.
Investment newsletter - December 2016
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