Some Relief For An India ETF...Maybe


Downtrodden, terrible and tumultuous are all adjectives that are applicable to the performances turned in by various India ETFs this year.

Slowing economic growth, a plunging rupee, widening account deficit and a government viewed by outsiders as incapable of handling the woes facing Asia's third-largest economy are among the reasons India ETFs have been dismal performers this year.

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Related: More Misery Ahead For India ETFs.

Desperate to jolt the once vibrant economy, India's government approved a spate of infrastructure projects worth 1.83 trillion rupees. Highlighting just how weak the rupee is against the dollar, that works out to be about $28.5 billion.

Still, news of India's infrastructure largess could be of some benefit to the EGShares India Infrastructure ETF (NYSE:INXX). INXX has not been immune to the shocks suffered by other India ETFs this year. Year-to-date, INXX is down 38.3 percent. The fund has not traded above its 200-day moving average since May, confirming its status as an ETF locked in a bear market.

News of the infrastructure plans did little to help the rupee, which traded around 65.715 at this writing at 3:30AM Eastern time Tuesday. Emerging markets investors long seduced by the promise and potentially positive impact of infrastructure spending know that it takes time for these projects to get started, let alone bear fruit, so an immediate pop for INXX may not be in the cards.

In theory, INXX should benefit from increased Indian infrastructure spending if for no other reason than that the country's decrepit infrastructure, particularly when compared to China, has long been viewed as a significant obstacle for the Indian economy. INXX devotes nearly 61 percent of its combined weight to industrial and utilities stocks, which should be beneficiaries of increased infrastructure spending.

It is, however, worth remembering that developing world infrastructure announcements often have mixed results for ETFs. Last year, Brazil ETFs got a short-term pop when that country announced a $66 billion infrastructure program. Same goes for ETFs for Thailand when that country unveiled a plan of similar size earlier this year.

Brazil and Thailand ETFs have proceeded to plunge. That and the fact that India's infrastructure plan is not even half as big as the Brazil and Thailand plans could put a lid on near-term upside for INXX.

At least investors will not pay up for a stake in INXX. As is the case with so many emerging markets ETFs these days, the fund is cheap on a valuation basis. The 10-year average P/E ratio for the MSCI India Index is 18, according to WisdomTree data. The P/E on INXX's underlying index is 15.92 with a price-to-book ratio of 1.18.

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Disclosure: Author owns none of the securities mentioned here.

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