Head Global Market Strategist Paul Christopher, CFA® offers a fresh perspective on what the future may hold for India and other emerging markets.
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I'm in a small town outside New Delhi, India, at an outdoor market, trying to figure out how to fit this great scene behind me into my narrow camera lens.
You know, my camera problem reminds me of trying to understand another story, like why emerging equity markets and local currency bonds, including India's, generally have disappointed US investors over the past three years.
I think the answer to both problems is that sometimes for a problem you need to zoom in, not zoom out, to understand it. I mean sometimes you have to get close enough to focus on the patterns and trends in order to grasp the bigger story. So, we can zoom in to India and see a lot of the same themes that have weighed down emerging markets in the last few years.
For example, India has suffered through falling trade, high corporate debt and some bank loans that are not being paid off, just like many other emerging countries. These negative factors have over-powered a few more modest market positives like falling inflation and interest rates.
Sentiment has also been a powerful factor, helping markets rally on optimism but then reversing lower when the hope turns to disappointment and frustration.
Now that's been the case at different points in time for all the largest emerging markets including China, Russia, Brazil and of course India. India's case is very instructive for the others because in India we can see how investors have pinned their hopes on a new leader only to later realize that he also has to work in a system that moves slowly and demands that he balance competing political interests and compromise.
Now, I'm not saying that India is a leading indicator for all of emerging markets, but its struggles with debt and sentiment swings give some clues about the patterns we see in emerging markets more broadly.
So looking ahead, we think the period of economic weakness has not finished yet in India or in emerging markets, but India's debt problems may be peaking in the coming year.
As the progress ensues we could see faster growth and stronger financial markets. The sectors that should benefit the most from positive fundamentals and improving sentiment should be those in services, especially information technology and those that serve the domestic consumer in India.
So investors, bottom line here, we'll probably need to wait another year for emerging markets and India to improve the attractiveness of their returns.
Now let's see if I can finally get a good picture from here. For insights into what the future may hold for emerging markets and India, download our Global Insights special report "Emerging Markets Through the Lens of India".
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