US investors elevate India over other emerging markets

People watch a large screen displaying India's benchmark share index on the facade of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building in Mumbai on Oct 16, 2014. US investors, buoyed by optimism about India's economy and booming stock market, have been
People watch a large screen displaying India's benchmark share index on the facade of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building in Mumbai on Oct 16, 2014. US investors, buoyed by optimism about India's economy and booming stock market, have been moving money into exchange-traded funds that focus solely on that country. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (Reuters) - US investors, buoyed by optimism about India's economy and booming stock market, have been moving money into exchange-traded funds that focus solely on that country.

US-listed India ETFs have added about US$2 billion in net new assets so far this year, outshining other emerging market funds. That brings the total assets of the 10 India ETFs tracked by Morningstar to US$6.3 billion, up roughly 47 per cent since January.

Those inflows dwarf the US$272 million added to broad emerging markets ETFs this year and represent the greatest single-country net asset gain when compared with U.S.-listed ETFs that focus on Brazil, China, Russia or South Africa.

The optimism about India is largely driven by the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May. Analysts and investors expect Modi's push for economic reform to rejuvenate earnings and create jobs. Investor appetite has driven the MSCI India Index up 28.5 per cent year-to-date - its highest in more than two decades.

That sentiment is a big shift from 2012, when HSBC called India a "gasping elephant" in a report highlighting the country's poor economic growth.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development last week upwardly revised its growth forecast for India, to 6.6 per cent from an earlier forecast of 5.7 per cent. "We are believers of the India story long-term," said Darshan Bhatt of New Jersey-based Glovista Investments LLC, which runs an emerging markets equity strategy for clients.

Bhatt went from having no position in India in January to having as much as 17 per cent of his portfolio in the country earlier this year. To build his Indian position, he has been selling Russian, Brazilian and South Korean shares. He has dialed back his Indian holdings a bit, he said, but still remains bullish.

India's gains stand in contrast to the 4.7 per cent gain for the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF and the 1.6 per cent gain for the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF this year.

The so-called BRICS group - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - all moved together a decade ago, but now India is pulling away from the others, said Dennis Hudachek, a senior analyst with ETF.com. The India optimism contrasts with expectations of slowing growth in China and a tepid reaction to the re-election of Brazil's president last month.