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India ETFs: Proof to EM Shocks, What About Oil Shocks?

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India’s GDP grew 8.2% in the first quarter of fiscal 2019, marking the strongest growth rate since first-quarter 2016. The rate was above 7.7% in the previous three months as well as market expectations of 7.6%.

India seems much more insulated from trade tensions. BlackRock sees a buying case in India, courtesy of “limited contagion” to EM shocks. India comes across as a safe haven bet, per an analyst, due to its lower exposure to exports (read: Beyond China, These Asia ETFs to Feel the Heat of Trade War).

The average value for India’s export to GDP (during 1960 to 2016) is around 10.4% with a minimum of 3.34% in 1965 and the highest of 25.43% in 2013. Merchandise exports as a percentage of GDP for 2017-18 came in at the lowest since 2003-04 (read: Are Large-Cap India ETFs Good Bets for 2H?).

Though India’s central bank raised the interest rate on Aug 1 to the highest level in two years to fight inflation and stabilize the currency amid a strengthening U.S. dollar, there was no pullback in India investing. Small-cap India ETF iShares MSCI India Small Cap ETF (SMIN - Free Report) and large-cap ETF iShares India 50 ETF (INDY - Free Report) added about $19.71 and $28.01 million in assets in August, respectively, despite the Turkey-and-Argentina-induced broader emerging market trouble.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has forecast that India’s GDP will grow 7.3% in fiscal 2019 and 7.5% in the next thanks to higher investment and robust private consumption. Upbeat corporate earnings is a factor that should drive India ETFs higher.

About three-fourths of 50 Nifty components reported results that either surpass estimates or came in line with in the June quarter, marking the highest number in at least three quarters, according to calculations by Bloomberg Quint, as quoted on business-standard.com.

Wall of Worry

Trade war tensions and contagion of economic crisis in Turkey and Argentina are probably less likely to hurt India ETFs in the coming days. iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM - Free Report) is down 13% this year (as of Sep 5, 2018)and iShares China Large-Cap ETF (FXI) has lost 13.6% this year, while iShares India 50 ETF (INDY - Free Report) is off about 2.7% so far in 2018, despite a rising greenback, ripples of U.S.-Sino trade war and Turkey trouble.

But India has its own share of problems. With oil prices at around $70 a barrel and United States Oil (USO - Free Report) up about 22%, India has got another reason to worry about. This should go against India as the country is a huge importer of crude. Every $10 per barrel increase in the price will likely lower India's fiscal balance by 0.1% and current account balance by 0.4% of GDP, per global financial services company Nomura. Chief Economist Adviser to the government also expects every $10 per barrel uptick in oil price to hurt GDP growth by around 0.2-0.3 percentage points.

Rich valuation is another concern. With the valuation gap between MSCI India Index and MSCI Emerging Markets Index widening the most in a decade (per Citigroup), any headwind can spark off steep selling. This is especially true given that the country is due for a general election next year.

But then while elections bring about uncertainties in the market, election-related spending should boost overall spending in the economy and more domestically focused small-cap equites.

Overall, the long-term outlook is mixed for the economy. So, it is better to be part of India ETFs as long as the economic recovery lasts since trade tensions do not seem a big issue for India investing.

ETFs in Focus

Against this backdrop, investors can keep track of the below-mentioned India ETFs.

Columbia India Infrastructure Index Fund (INXX - Free Report) – Down 1.4% in the past one month

WisdomTree India Earnings Fund (EPI - Free Report) – Down 2.5%

Invesco India ETF (PIN - Free Report) ) – Down 2.98%

iShares MSCI India ETF (INDA - Free Report) – Down 3.08%

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