Strong market an apt tribute to India’s Big Bull

Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, Partner, Rare Enterprises, poses after an interview with Reuters in Mumbai, India November 14, 2017. REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade/File Photo

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MUMBAI, Aug 15 (Reuters Breakingviews) – “I see hordes, hordes, hordes, and hordes of Indian money coming.” Rakesh Jhunjhunwala was on the money when he predicted five years ago at a Reuters Breakingviews event in Mumbai that the country’s stock market was approaching a tipping point. The robustness of Indian equities in a world of heavy selling is a fitting tribute to the Big Bull billionaire investor who died on Sunday aged 62. read more

Jhunjhunwala earned a reputation as India’s Warren Buffett for his success trading. The self-made man’s pronouncements on stocks were closely watched. His portfolio included Tata Motors (TAMO.NS) and watchmaker Titan (TITN.NS). But unlike the Sage of Omaha’s $660 billion Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N), Jhunjhunwala’s Rare Enterprises was not a publicly traded entity and the two men had opposing views on aviation. Jhunjhunwala’s enthusiasm for the sector was just coming to life; he died a week after the maiden flight of his budget carrier Akasa Air.

India’s financial community is losing a giant figure just as its stock market seems to be coming of age. Share prices have been relatively unmoved as foreign institutional investors, who own roughly one fifth of the market, dumped a net $25 billion of stock this year on the back of war and U.S. interest rate hikes. India’s benchmark Sensex is up 2% in the year to date in local currency and down less than 5% in U.S. dollar terms, making it one of the strongest performing top global indices after Brazil’s Bovespa, per Refinitiv data. The S&P 500 is down 10%.

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Jhunjhunwala led the way for Indians who are now enthusiastically buying into the country’s long-term growth potential through “systematic investment plans”. There is a flood of domestic liquidity. Household money in mutual funds amounts to $260 billion, a more than 60% jump in the three years to September 2021, and is about 10% of GDP, per Reserve Bank of India data.

There is reason to be nervous, however. As equity gains prominence alongside gold and property as a top place for ordinary folks to park savings, India’s premium valuation to emerging markets is creeping up. The MSCI India index is trading at 21 times forward earnings, almost twice the level of the MSCI Emerging Markets. A persistently high oil price and slowdown in global growth is yet to fully play out for a state that is a net importer of crude. Bullishness has its limits, but Jhunjhunwala left on a high.

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India’s best-known stock investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala died on Aug. 14, prompting an outpouring of tributes for a self-made billionaire whose fortunes rose with the country’s economy. Jhunjhunwala died at the age of 62, a week after the launch of his budget airline, Akasa Air.

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Editing by George Hay and Thomas Shum

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Opinions expressed are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of Reuters News, which, under the Trust Principles, is committed to integrity, independence, and freedom from bias.

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