Investors need to have a balanced approach this year

India presents an attractive opportunity for investors seeking high growth potential in a volatile global environment. Yet, people need to carefully consider the following factors before making investment decisions.

Growth and potential: India’s economic growth story is compelling. Its GDP has grown at a steady more than 7% in US dollar terms, outpacing most countries. This growth translates to strong corporate earnings, with Nifty 50 firms posting 22% profit growth over the past 3 years in compound annual growth rate terms. Several factors contribute to this success. Benign monetary policy has kept interest rates stable, fostering investment and growth. A revitalized banking sector with robust lending capacity supports consumption and investment. Additionally, corporate India has significantly de-leveraged, improving its financial health and paving the way for further expansion.

Headwinds and risks: Despite its positive outlook, India faces several challenges. A fractured global growth picture presents headwinds, with many economies experiencing sluggishness and rising interest rates. This could dampen Indian exports and overall economic activity. India’s market cap has now surpassed $4.1 trillion and is now 120% of GDP. This is far beyond the recent highs that this ratio made. We are getting into unchartered territory. Valuations have also trended higher with trailing 12-month Nifty P/E ratio now above 22 times. Historically, such valuations lead to lower returns in the future. Earnings growth has been a key pillar of support for the markets. Aided by strong economic growth, record margins and stable monetary policy earnings have trended higher and has seen very few downgrades which is break from the past. This augurs well for the long term if the earnings trajectory can withstand the softer growth trajectory for the next few quarters. This suggests that investors are already factoring in significant future growth, leaving less margin of safety and potentially leading to subdued returns.

Investment implications: While India’s growth story remains attractive, investors must carefully consider the risks and uncertainties involved. Assessing the global outlook, valuations, and potential headwinds is crucial. A balanced approach, acknowledging both the opportunities and challenges, will be key to navigating the complexities of investing in India.

The way ahead: Investors benefit a lot in years which begin with low expectations. In years which end with a negative return, the following year is often with high margin of safety and above average returns. Nifty Index is likely to close 2023 positively. This with the eighth consecutive year of positive returns. In fact over the last 15 years, Nifty has produced only one negative year with a marginal (3.5%, YTD) loss. Moreover, valuations for large, mid and small caps are above long-term averages. Investors should adopt two methods:

Asset allocation: Use a Multi Asset Allocation strategy to reduce exposure to equities and add a flavour of debt and gold.

Staggering purchases: History shows that SIPs started at the peak of price and valuations cycle have better change of continuation and deliver better returns than lumpsum investments.

Keep an eye out for risks this year and utilize cross asset exposure for better investment outcomes. Astute investors are eyeing gold and bonds as compelling assets in their portfolios, driven by their attractive valuations and potential for diversification. Gold, is nearing its all-time high. It has historically served as a hedge against inflation and economic uncertainties, making it a sought-after safe haven during turbulent times. Simultaneously, bonds present an intriguing proposition as declining yields can provide large capital gains through duration strategies. In times of market volatility, bonds tend to exhibit stability, offering a counterbalance to the potential roller-coaster ride in equities. Equities have enjoyed ultra-low volatility in 2023 and 2024 could mark a departure from this trend. As markets become more unpredictable, the need for diversification becomes paramount. Gold, with its low correlation to traditional asset classes, emerges as an ideal diversifier, providing a safeguard against the potential pitfalls of an increasingly volatile equity market. Investors, therefore, find themselves drawn to the dual allure of gold’s impending breakout and the stabilizing influence of bonds, constructing a robust strategy to weather the uncertainties of 2024.

Sahil Kapoor is market strategist & head-products, DSP Mutual Fund.

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Published: 01 Jan 2024, 09:34 PM IST

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