Never mind Narendra Modi: India’s equity markets have gone back to the days of Manmohan Singh

The Sensex is back to where it was before Modi took office.
The Sensex is back to where it was before Modi took office.
Image: AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade
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When India’s prime minister Narendra Modi took power in May 2014, equity markets cheered and investors were ecstatic.

The Sensex, India’s benchmark equity index, touched a record high of 25,000 points on May 16, 2014, the day the general election results were announced—a sign that investors approved of the country’s new leader.

Almost 20 months on, that euphoria on Dalal Street has now decidedly ended.

The markets are back to where they were before Modi took office. On Jan. 12 (Tuesday), the Sensex fell 143 points to close at 24,682.03 points. This was the index’s lowest closing level in 19 months. The index wiped out all gains made since the new government was sworn in. It has been hovering around those levels since. For instance, today (Jan 14), it was trading at 24.683 points at 10:52am.

The initial excitement died partly due to the government’s inability to pass crucial tax reforms and other bills.

External factors have only piled on more agony. For instance, China’s flailing economy and sinking stock market have spooked Indian bourses, which were first hit in August when Chinese manufacturing activity dropped to a six-year low.

The first week of 2016 saw a replay when China saw its currency dwindle and stocks crash following concerns over stalling economic growth. The Sensex dropped 5.65% between Jan. 1 and Jan. 12.

“Most foreign investors see China as all of Asia and are pulling out of emerging markets without drilling down to country or company-specific level,” Anil Ahuja, chief executive officer of Singapore-based IPEplus Advisors, told Bloomberg TV India.

Falling oil prices & corporate earnings

The markets are also bearing the brunt of falling oil prices.

According to Deven Choksey, managing director, KRChoksey, a brokerage, plummeting oil prices are having a negative impact on investor sentiment. ”For instance, some sovereign funds might lose money due to falling fuel prices so they need to pull out funds from other asset classes,” Choksey told Quartz.

Corporate earnings don’t look great either, further denting investor confidence.

According to an analysis by CRISIL, a credit ratings agency, corporate revenue—excluding banking and financial firms, and oil and gas companies—is expected to grow only 2% on an average for the quarter ending Dec. 31, 2015. This is mainly due to “crushed commodity prices, weak investment demand and flagging rural consumption,” CRISIL said in a note on Jan. 5.