Given the lackadaisical performance of our markets in 2019, a lot of people who are connected with it directly or indirectly are hoping for 2020 to be a much better year. Let me try and do some crystal ball gazing to speculate how the year might pan out.
To begin with, it is important to understand that the global situation is really facing a lot of headwinds in economic terms and the cutrrent events unfolding are unlikely to change this any time soon. A lot of the global growth depends on countries such as US, China, Japan etc and the current context in this is not reassuring at all. In US, the impending impeachment of Trump is likely to cause a lot of friction and instability, the US-China trade talks are at best a patchwork, demand situation in any of these countries is also a cause for worry. The US stock markets however, are doing quite well compared to many others and this has caused money to flow into them. This really is a double whammy – countries such as India suffer from the negative situation in the US in terms of sentiment and also get impacted adversely as there is less FII money available. On top of these issues such as buying oil from Iran, the situation in Kashmir has caused a certain amount of cooling off between India and US which affects exports considerably.
For India though, the domestic situation is a far greater concern as compared to the international one. The implicit assumption last year was that a victory of the BJP led NDA will act as a tonic for the beleaguered markets and things would go well from there on. In practice the aggressive posturing by the BJP on a variety of issues, their inability to form the government in Maharashtra, loss in Jharkhand, continuing slide of the economy in terms of the IIP and GDP numbers have managed to create an uncertain situation and as we all know the markets do not like uncertainty. BJP presented 2 budgets in 2019 and both lacked direction and were completely unimaginative as far as growth was concerned. Yes, the current Finance minister did try and correct this by taking some measures when the market slide was unabated, and this has helped in recovery of the headline indices. In my opinion though this was too little and definitely too late.
Some of you may ask as to whether I am being unduly negative when the markets are at their life time highs. The point is the NIFTY and Sensex numbers are due to money being pumped into a few companies. The broader markets have remained pretty much where they were earlier and stocks like Yes Bank been beaten down so badly on price is an indication of lack of investor confidence. I see two real issues connected to each other in a very direct way. Firstly consumer confidence is at the lowest for a long time now and secondly this has resulted in consumption not picking up. A direct result is the earning growth of companies is muted and companies are reluctant to invest, even when they now have some unexpected extra money due to the cortprate tax cuts. Finally for all those who are saying that our indices should cause a cheer or two, look at the following data point. In 12 years from 2008 to 2020 January, NIFTY has gone from 6000 to 12000 levels. That is an annual return of 6 % and your money in a bank FD would have earned as much, definitely a lot more in instruments such as PPF.
All right, enough of the doom and gloom then, let us look forward. In terms of politics, though the BJP is well entrenched in the centre, they are losing the states and an united opposition poses a significant challenge in these elections. This may well cause the BJP to adopt more populist measures at the cost of fiscal prudence and this will have long term negative effects for the economy. In the short run though measures such as income tax cuts, reversal or reduction of LTCG taxes, lowered petrol prices will definitely help boost consumer confidence and hopefully also help in kickstarting the consumption demand. I see this happening in the second quarter of 2020 and the markets may well anticipate this and start rising in the early part of 2020 post the budget. If the cycle of events play out as expected and corporate earning growth is a reality finally, the market growth will also be sustained. I think this is possible if things are handled well from here on.
So finally for the predictions then – I think Nifty will be in the range of 12000 to 12500 till the budget and may well scale 13000 by June or so. From then the paths can be both choppy and uncertain – there is a possibility of reaching 14000 by December if all goes well but a more likely figure will be 13600 or so. However, if things go wrong it is quite easy to see Nifty back in the sub 13000 range, may be even lower than 12500. I think the first scenario will hold and am hoping for it too 🙂
What will be the impact on the investments and what should be the choices in 2020? Let me try and do a post on this tomorrow.