The chorus of endorsements for Asia's third largest economy in India, is growing louder. In a new blog post, legendary emerging markets investor Dr. Mark Mobius, executive chairman of the Templeton Emerging Markets Group, said his team sees growth potential in the Indian economy.
Perhaps it is just a coincidence, but the post was published yesterday and India ETFs are moving higher today. For example, the WisdomTree India Earnings ETF (NYSE:EPI) is up more than two percent while the Market Vectors India Small-Cap ETF (NYSE:SCIF) is higher by 2.5 percent.
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The catalysts for the recent bullishness in Indian equities have been noted by other analysts and investors and Mobius cites some familiar ones in highlighting favorable actions taken by the Indian government. Those reforms include "plans to divest its stake in five companies, a shift away from subsidies, and the opening of foreign direct investment in power exchanges, the non-news broadcast media, retailing and aviation industries," Mobius wrote.
Those actions by the government have certainly helped Indian ETFs. In the past month, the iShares S&P India Nifty 50 Index (NASDAQ:INDY) is up 11.4 percent while EPI is higher by nearly 12 percent. SCIF has surged 16 percent.
In terms of opening the retail sector more foreign direct investment, the unheralded EGShares India Consumer ETF (NYSE:INCO) has continued a run that has seen the ETF outperform almost every other member of the India ETF complex. INCO, which did receive some praise earlier this year, is up almost 14 percent in the past month and 35 percent year-to-date.
Again, it is probably just a coincidence, but the ETF is higher by 3.3 percent today following the Mobius post.
What is noteworthy about the Mobius call on India is that he is at least the third voice to extol the virtues of India in the past week. Earlier this week, WisdomTree Research Director Jeremy Schwartz praised India's new policy measures in a favorable research note on the country.
Last week, iShares Global Chief Investment Strategist Russ Koesterich upgraded India to Neutral from Underweight. Naysayers could argue that Koesterich and Schwartz have skin in the game because their firms sponsor some of the largest India ETFs.
Perhaps that is being overly critical, but it is worth noting the Templeton BRIC Fund managed by Mobius is not excessively weighted to India. Nor is the Templeton Emerging Markets Balanced Fund, also managed by Mobius.
Something else that must be acknowledged about Indian stocks is that, despite a tumultuous year, the market is the king of the BRIC quartet in terms of performance. At least as measured by the marquee ETFs tracking each nation. EPI is up 21.1 percent year-to-date, better than twice the returns offered by the Market Vectors Russia ETF (NYSE:RSX), the largest ETF. The largest Brazil and Chna ETFs, the iShares MSCI Brazil Index Fund (NYSE:EWZ) and the iShares FTSE China 25 Index Fund (NYSE:FXI), are both in the red on the year.
The China/India rivalry has been noted too many times to count since the term BRIC was coined over a decade ago, but India might someday come out on top.
"Despite its obstacles, India's economy has proved adept at generating growth in recent years without heavy investment and with a much better ratio of growth to capital spending than China," Mobius wrote. "Unlike in China, India's working population is generally expected to experience strong growth over the next decade, and reserves of labor among the rural population are large. The impediments to continued growth should be surmountable, in our opinion, provided the political will is therewhich leads us to believe in the economy's growth potential."
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