'Stock benchmarks may fall 5-10% from current levels'

Asia's Tech News Daily

Sensex, Nifty, stock market, Nifty50, Indian stock market

Mumbai: India’s stock benchmarks – the Sensex and the Nifty – could decline by another 5-10 per cent as uncertainty over the new virus variant grips the world, according to the majority of market participants in a poll conducted by ET over the weekend. Investors must consider deploying cash in potential winners amid this weakness, they said. ICICI Bank, L&T, HCL Tech, Reliance Industries and Infosys are among their top picks.

Last week, indices lost over 4 per cent – posting their worst weekly performance since January – and are down 8 per cent from their record highs in October, with new infections adding to existing concerns over the withdrawal of the US Fed’s bond-buying programme. The Sensex closed at 57,107.15 and the Nifty ended at 17,014.80 on Friday. The ET poll of 20 money managers, research heads and strategists show that 30 per cent of them expect another 5 per cent fall and 40 per cent see the Indian benchmarks slumping another 10 per cent. “From the top, we were expecting a 5-10 per cent fall but now the market has fallen 8 per cent from the top,” said Andrew Holland, CEO, Avendus Capital Alternate Strategies.

“Ten percent is a reasonable correction from the top,” he said.

While this could potentially be the biggest selloff since the rally started in late March 2020, 93 per cent of the participants said they were comfortable deploying cash in the market, indicating the bearishness is moderate. Most of those surveyed for this poll expect the Nifty to be back at 18,000-19,000 levels by the time the budget is announced on February 1.

“The patience of the public regarding new variants and their impact is wearing thin and there is growing resistance to further restrictions on movement and travel,” said Mark Mobius, veteran emerging markets investor and founder of Mobius Capital Partners in Hong Kong. “The impact on stock markets will be minimal generally.”

Over 30 per cent of the money managers and strategists polled see the new Covid variant as the top concern for the market currently, followed by inflation, which is a top concern for 23 per cent. This was closely followed by US Federal Reserve taper concern and subsequent outflows from overseas investors.

The fear of the new Omicron Covid variant, said to be more transmissible, led to a near 3 per cent plunge in the Indian indices on Friday, while some of the global markets fell even more. With travel restrictions already cropping up after the variant of concern was detected in South Africa, money managers said renewed restrictions are driving investors to safe-haven assets. The spread of the virus in Europe has also got investors moving into a risk-off mode.

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