Fear and loathing in Risk Street

Gold prices have fallen. Bond prices have tanked. And now equities are sliding downwards with no end in sight. All those who wanted returns from market-linked products are running scared

The prevailing mood among Indian savers who want to take a bit of a higher risk for higher returns is bleak. All major asset classes are taking a beating and falling over like dominoes over the last few months. First, it was gold, which crashed in April. Then, bond prices got squeezed in June and July. And now, it is the turn of equities to cause heartburn to Indian savers. In the midst of all this, the rupee has pummeled, causing worries to importers, investors and policy makers alike. All those who looked to invest risky assets for higher return have been suffering one setback after another. The mood is truly despondent.

First, it was gold prices, which crashed in April. The average monthly price of gold was Rs30,520/10 gms in January which crashed to Rs26,768/10 gms by the end of May. During this period, panic ensued and a lot of investors started to take money out of gold and put it into bonds, which seemed the asset to buy because “everybody” expected the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to reduce interest rates. Meanwhile, the equity markets rose as RBI cut interest rates twice, once in March and once in May, from 7.75% to 7.25%.

In the beginning of the year, the sentiment was bullish after RBI cut interest rates, in January, to boost spending. This happened after the central bank was “satisfied” that inflation levels had moderated and time was ripe for growth. The Sensex reacted briefly, and moved up from 19,714 and punctured 20,000. At the same time, prior to the budget in February, the finance minister P Chidambaram, went shopping abroad to placate foreign institutional investors (FIIs), who were worried that no reform measures were undertaken. The markets started tanking in anticipation of a populist budget (rather than one with “reforms”). The budget turned out to be a total dampener. FIIs started withdrawing money in droves (Having believed in the FM’s promises, foreign brokers suffer a rude awakening) and this took the market to new yearly low, when Sensex touched 18,144 in mid-April.


Then, in late May, the US Federal Reserve announced that it would “taper” bond purchases (i.e. wind down its quantitative easing program). (Check out our article 'Quantitative easing myths debunked'). This sent not just the equity markets into a tailspin, but also emerging market currencies, particularly Brazil’s Real and Indian rupee. Riots ensued in Brazil while Indian policy makers were in a tizzy. The rupee depreciated from Rs54 levels and breached Rs60 levels. This caused RBI to panic and introduce a host of measures to stem the rupee decline, particularly tightening liquidity on banks, and kept interest rates the same. Investors, who had moved into bonds, suffered a massive blow. Bond prices fell. Food inflation returned to haunt the RBI.

Meanwhile, thanks to the rupee, price of gold, in rupee terms, became dearer. Concerns about fiscal deficit and current account deficit resurfaced. And rating agencies were concerned about India’s fiscal position. This caused short term bond yields to shoot up. Investors were worried about the government’s ability to service its debt, especially after the Cabinet approval of the controversial Food Security Bill which will dent long term fiscal deficit.

Equities are back to the levels seen after P Chidamambaram became the finance minister again last year.


The above graph shows the volatility in equity market this year. Gold, bonds, equities… all have disappointed investors so far this year. Many investors are uncertain about the direction of any of the markets. The fear is well and alive on risk street.


Check out our cover story: Turbulence ahead for equity, bonds and gold!



Sandeep Consul

4 years ago

Financial Journals always miss out an important point in their articles - the complacency in the Indian Mutual Fund Managers because of the benchmarking concept. Lest see the following situation - if you have to build a portfolio of a diversified or a sectoral fund -

Would you ever put 45% of your funds in a single stock, however good that stock may be ???? - not even by a long shot from whatever you have been writing over last many years.

Lets consider an example - In India we have two FMCG funds from ICICI and SBI. If you look at their portfolio you will find that both of them have about 45% investment in ITC..... isn't it totally against whatever you have learnt and have been telling readers for years? Doesn't it throw all the principles of Portfolio Management for a toss ? Then why do these funds have 45% exposure to ITC.
As Jeremy Grantham said "the primary directive, first and last, is to keep your job. To do this, he explained, you must never, ever be wrong on your own."

So how do fund managers do it -the fund manager very conveniently has a benchmark against whom he can compare himself. To retain his job he must not underperform the benchmark even in the worst case scenario by a huge margin. In the best case scenario he hopes to outperform the benchmark little bit by slight tinkering in the portfolio to earn his bonus.

So if SBI's FMCG fund’s benchmark BSE FMCG index has appx 50% weightage in ITC, SBI FMCG fund has about 45% of its investment in ITC, even though its totally against what every fund manager/analyst/investment guru learnt and preached throughout his life.

The idea at the back of any fund managers mind is NEVER about giving good absolute returns to their investors - as a retail investor naively assumes, reading all the good articles about -long term benefits of investing and investing thru mutual funds - where one of the biggest benefit is always proclaimed to be DIVERSIFICATION (as a retial investor can not diversify in to many stocks with limited funds). The primary goal of the fund manager is saving his job and for that he has to clone the index.

Simillar thing is carried out in a Diversified Mutual Fund, like a Large cap or Flexi cap fund, but on a more sophisticated level which a retail investor can't figure out (based on the Beta of the the benchmark index etc etc, more on that some other time).
Do you think fund managers are doing a great job, if over five years they beat a benchmark, in which Stock are included at four digit prices and excluded at two digit prices, by a couple of percentage points???

The dark reality is that Financial websites and Journals avoid writing about it because they are part of the system, they are dependent on Mutual Funds for Ad Revenue hence they will write about everything from SEBI's inefficiency to misselling by distributors to financial illiteracy of investors but not about the rot in the fund management.

Dr Anantha K Ramdas

4 years ago

Sorry, there is an error ...

the word "NOT" is missing in the sentence:

"NOT a governmentment
with a number of parties
forming a coalitiion"

All because the major party will be at the mercy of the smaller ones in the coalition
and will be forced to dance once in a while...

Dr Anantha K Ramdas

4 years ago

I think that this market for equities will be going up and down (yo-yo style) every week and will return to normalcy once the elections are over.

Even then, the situation will become stabilized when there is a majority rule and a government with a number of parties forming a coalition.

The Rupee can be stable only when we learn to control imports of cheap electronic goods from China; stop reckless imports of gold and push up our

export or perish - which is what Jawaharal Nehru called for years ago - this is imperative now.

Vinayak Bhimarao Mudholkar

4 years ago

When one earns enough returns only when one sells it at a higher price then it is speculation. By this definition almost all equity investors are speculators. The so called fundamentally strong stocks are either too costly &/or dubious. The single most effective point is Buy on Foot-path ie. Ek pe char free!....India is just investment grade & ironically the so called AAA+ foreigners are dancing to the tune of so called "economic reforms (!!!)"....It is nothing but "MAYSABHA IN MAHABHARATA"


4 years ago

Those who can't withstand volatility must invest in fixed deposits.

And those who target market linked returns must learn to withstand volatility. For this too shall pass.


Vinayak Bhimarao Mudholkar

In Reply to Nilesh KAMERKAR 4 years ago

I am a fan of Moneylife & I like your comments too !

Vinayak Bhimarao Mudholkar

In Reply to Nilesh KAMERKAR 4 years ago

Dear Nilesh Sir,
Is their any blog of yours?


In Reply to Vinayak Bhimarao Mudholkar 4 years ago

No sir, I don't have a blog.

Santosh Kanekar

4 years ago

1. Gold prices have gone up now to almost 29k levels, the same levels from where the crash started

2. Retail investor has been smart by staying away from Equity and Bonds and invested in FDs

3. Mainstream media has a big role in bending the reality. The myth that one should buy on dips is propagated incessantly. When bond yield started going up on May 22 (gradually) and FIIs started pulling out, no one cautioned the retail investor to bail out. Even now media is asking everyone to stay invested in Debt funds when MTM losses have already touched 4-6% of capital value.

Retail investors always worried about Return OF Capital and and not Return ON Capital and this is the right focus


4 years ago


I just want to submit that Nifty/Sensex are misleading. Market has gone down heavily but is not reflected. The simple reason for this is top 10 heavy weights are not allowing Index/Nifty to fall.e.g.CNX PSU Bank's index is down more than 59% in one year from top but Nifty is 6%
higher in one year.

Weakness on Sensex, Nifty persists: Friday Closing Report

The first sign of a reversal of downtrend in Nifty will be if the index closes above 5,770 on Monday

The domestic market settled lower on pressure from rate-sensitive sectors after the RBI governor said that liquidity tightening measures would be eased only after the forex market stabilises. The NSE saw a huge volume of 72.68 crore shares.


The market opened in the green after the government yesterday eased FDI rules for multi-brand retail. Asian markets which were mostly higher in morning trade on positive economic news also boosted sentiments.


The Nifty opened 22 points higher at 5,750 and the Sensex resumed trade at 19,400, up 83 points over its previous close. Buying in consumer durables, IT, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) and technology sectors helped the benchmarks hit their high in initial trade. The Nifty rose to 5,762 and the Sensex went up to 19,452 at their respective highs.


The indices soon pared early gains and drifted lower on profit booking in PSU, realty, power and banking stocks. Meanwhile, the rupee lost 27 paise to 60.70 against the dollar in early trade on higher demand for the greenback from importers, even as RBI took more measures to curb the domestic unit’s fall.


The market continued to fall in post-noon trade on selling in metal, power, PSU and realty stocks. A comment by the RBI governor D Subbarao that the central bank will roll-back the liquidity tightening steps only after stability is seen in the forex market added to the investors’ woes.


The indices touched their lows in the late session on selling in rate-sensitive sectors with the Nifty slipping to as low as 5,649 and the Sensex declining to 19,079.


However, the market closed lower, but off the lows, on the RBI governor’s comments about considering easing liquidity curbs. The Nifty declined 50 points (0.87%) to settle at 5,678 and the Sensex closed trade at 19,164, a cut of 153 points (0.79%).


The broader indices too settled lower. The BSE Mid-cap index fell 0.40% and the BSE Small-cap index fell 1.32%.


BSE Consumer durables (up 5.38%); BSE IT (up 0.96%); BSE Teck (up 0.55%) and BSE Oil & Gas (up 0.08%) were the sectoral gainers while all other sectoral indices fell. The major losers were BSE Realty (down 4.01%); BSE Power (down 3.77%); BSE Metal (down 3.65%); BSE PSU (down 2.64%) and BSE Capital goods (down 1.55%).


Out of the 30 stocks on the Sensex, six stocks settled in the green. The main gainers were TCS (up 1.66%); Infosys (up 1.04%); Reliance Industries (up 0.84%); Wipro (up 0.58%) and Tata Motors (up 0.45%). The main losers were Jindal Steel (down 7.29%); Coal India (down 5.84%); Tata Power (down 3.93%); Sterlite Inds (down 3.92%) and Tata Steel (down 3.74%).


The top two A Group gainers on the BSE were— Jaiprakash Power (up 16.04%) and IRB Infrastructure (up 13.76%).


The top two A Group losers on the BSE were— Financial Technologies (down 21.12%) and MCX (down 20%).


The top two B Group gainers on the BSE were— Sharp India (up 20%) and Hindustan Construction (up 19.95%).


The top two B Group losers on the BSE were— Shalimar Paints (down 19.99%) and Rainbow Denim (down 19.89%).


Of the 50 stocks on the Nifty, 15 ended in the in the green. The major gainers were Ranbaxy (up 4.06%); Cairn (up 2.60%); ACC (up 2.29%); Ambuja Cements (up 2.21%) and Lupin (up 2.08%). The main losers were Power Grid (down 11.52%); Jaiprakash Associates (down 9.09%); Jindal Steel (down 8.08%); DLF (down 6.86%); and Bank of Baroda (down 5.84%).


Markets in Asia settled mostly in the green on firm economic news from across the world. The European Central Bank’s decision to keep rates low for some more time and the US Federal Reserve’s move to continue its bond buying programme also supported the gains.


The Shanghai Composite added 0.02%; the Hang Seng gained 0.46%; the Jakarta Composite rose 0.36%; the KLSE Composite advanced 0.26%; the Nikkei 225 surged 3.29%; the Straits Times gained 0.33%; the Seoul Composite settled 0.14% higher and the Taiwan Weighted climbed 0.54%.


At the time of writing, two of the three key European indices were in the positive and the US stock futures were trading with minor gains.


Back home, foreign institutional investors were net buyers of equities amounting to Rs177.78 crore on Thursday while domestic institutional investors were net sellers of shares totalling Rs293.62 crore.


TVS Motor Company plans to set up an assembly line in Uganda. The company will also launch two new motorcycle models for Uganda. The company has appointed a new distributor, Yuvaraj International Uganda Limited. The company has been present in two wheeler segment in Uganda for about a decade and currently has around eight dealers offering sales, service and spare parts facilities across the country. The company plans to reach 25% market share within a year of commencing operation with the new distributor. The stock rose 1.46% to close at Rs31.25 on the NSE.


Charu Deshpande's jottings point to a suicide note?
The investigating team from Mumbai that questioned several officials, including some in the vice-president rank at Tata Steel, had found a handwritten note and other evidence in connection with the alleged suicide of Charu Deshpande 
A six-member team of Mumbai police that interrogated several officials of Tata Steel in connection with the alleged suicide of Charudutta (Charu) Deshpande, the steelmaker's former chief of corporate communication claimed to have found a handwritten note. 
According to a release from Press Club, Mumbai, the police have unearthed notings in Charu Deshpande's handwriting where he has mentioned some of the circumstances and names associated with his harassment in the days and months before his death. "These jottings virtually amount to a suicide note with statements that say, 'I go without fear, or rancour!’ the release added.
Himanshu Roy, joint commissioner of police, told a delegation of the Mumbai Press Club that the police team that had gone to the Tata Steel headquarters at Jamshedpur had seized Deshpande's personal computer and was examining as many as 1,000 emails he had stored. "We have interrogated as many as 47 persons so far including the vice-presidents Partho Sengupta, Ramesh Krishnan, the assistant of Charu and the current head of corporate communications," Roy said.
Roy, in a briefing on the progress of the investigations by the joint team of Thane Rural and Mumbai Crime Branch police, said the investigations revealed that Charu Deshpande had no family disputes or problems at home, and that his frustration and disappointment was because of his work place and his experiences at Tata Steel. It was discovered that Deshpande was the first person in Tata Steel - who despite being appointed at very senior IL2 level of seniority - was not confirmed in service after completion of his probation.
"In the weeks before his exit in May, depositions revealed that Deshpande's behaviour became more nervous and he began to smoke heavily. In one instance, this even triggered a fire alarm," Roy said, adding, "He developed a sense of frustration because of being sidelined and denied normal travel opportunities which he thought were very essential to fulfil his job profile. Only two of his 36 requests for travel were sanctioned. His request for an audience with the senior management was repeatedly denied." 
Roy mentioned that the general harassment of Charu Deshpande become more focused and sharp after the publication of an article in Forbes Magazine on Tata Steel in February. "The article was not too negative of Tata Steel, but some Tata Steel managers perceived it so, and blamed it on Charu. It has been established that he was uncomfortable with one or two persons; and the harassment by his tormentors only increased after the Forbes article," he said.
The Police are still examining the data and are keen to fill some gaps. Police teams may visit Jamshedpur again if so required, and the investigation will soon be completed and the case will be taken to its logical conclusion, Roy said.
Meanwhile, on 27 July, the internal Inquiry Committee (IC) appointed by Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry on the Charu Deshpande case, held a special sitting to record the depositions of Rajesh Chaturvedi, MD of Adfactors PR, Vinda Walawalkar, PR executive and Prince Mathew, author of the Forbes article. The three persons had been in close touch with Charu before his death and the calling for these witnesses was formally requested by the Press Club, the release said.
However, the release from Mumbai Press Club, is also sketchy as it leaves out several issues. If the police claim harassment, why are they not acting on this? Also, why did the IC of Tata group seek deposition from three outsiders, when all the action was inside Tata Steel (as per the police)?  
You may also want to read:  Death of a PR Man



Vinay Joshi

4 years ago

Ms.Sucheta & Mr. Debashis,


Why should the Press Club, even if sketchy, IN THE FIRST PLACE release on which you depend upon?

Have you understood the provisions of the release?



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