Although the world’s largest democracy has been hobbled by inflation, a declining currency, sub-par growth and difficult business environment, the pro-business Bharatiya Janata Party that just won an epic election in India has engendered optimism that the country can turn around its sagging economic scenario.
It’s time to increase your exposure to India’s stock market.
India’s equity market has been perking up of late, something that can’t be said for the other so-called “BRIC” economies of Brazil, Russia and China, which collectively make up nearly half of the market value of the emerging markets.
The $1.3 billion WisdomTree India Earnings ETF WISDOMTREE TRUST INDIA EARNINGS FUND
, the largest exchange-traded fund investing in Indian stocks, has climbed 22% over the past 12 months through May 29 and is up 26% year-to-date. The fund holds large companies such as Reliance Industries and Tata Motors. It charges annual expenses of 0.83% of assets.
For a play on smaller Indian companies, consider the Market Vectors India Small-Cap ETF VANECK VECTORS INDIA SMALL-CAP INDEX ETF - USD DIS
, up nearly 31% over the past 12 months and nearly 46% year-to-date. It spots an expense ratio of 0.93% holds stocks such as Ramco Cements and Hexaware Technologies.
Before digging in too deeply, be aware of the risks of investing in India.
* The bureaucratic business environment is tough to navigate, as well as corrupt.
* Stocks listed on Indian exchanges are volatile and will continue to be. The WisdomTree fund’s returns, for example, have been all over the board. After climbing 95% and 20% in 2009 and 2010, respectively, the fund lost 40% in 2011 and 9% last year. This is a reason India shouldn’t dominate your global stock holdings, but represent a “satellite” position that includes other emerging economies.
* The Indian economy is still sluggish relative to its historic standards. In the last fiscal year, economic growth slowed to a 10-year low of 4.5% from a high of 10.4% in 2010, according to The World Bank. If new Prime Minister Narendra Modi can pull off a turnaround, demand will increase for banking services and credit, construction, consumer goods, and vehicles. The Modi-led BJP government may also ramp up trade with China and other growing Asian economies.
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* Inflation, hovering around 10%, continues to hamper the Indian economy. The central bank has raised interest rates three times since September 2013. Along with a pronounced drop in the rupee against the U.S. dollar, the country has been stung by the U.S. Federal Reserve’s pullback on its bond-buying stimulus, which had pumped billions into developing nations like India.
Neena Mishra, director of ETF Research for Zacks Investments in Chicago, sees India as a good long-term investment since renowned economist Raghuram Rajan took over as the governor of the central bank of India.
“The central bank has taken a number of positive steps in the past few months, towards bringing down inflation, liberalizing financial markets and strengthening the monetary policy framework,” Mishra says.
Although tangible economic progress seems slow to investors in the West, India’s development and social progress is largely a success story that will accelerate if economic growth picks up.
Growth is expected to increase to nearly 5% in the most recent fiscal year; to almost 6% in the 2014-2015 fiscal year; and 6.5% the following year. If those forecasts prove true, India would trail only China as the largest and fastest-growing developing country.