What to do in these times?

What to do in these times?

As Indian markets continue to fall along with most other international markers, investors are wondering if this is the time to buy their favorite stocks. The latest trigger for the decline was the Russia – Ukraine conflict. The situation keeps changing every day but the impact on commodities – oil, sunflower oil, metals such as aluminum, copper and nickel, corn, wheat – prices have been immediate. The auto industry would be specifically affected as Russia is also a significant supplier of palladium a key component in semiconductor chips. Natural gas prices are already on the rise and Russia’s ejection from the global swift system could cause a lag in trade payments affecting balance sheets. The best outcome from investors’ perspective would be the cessation of hostilities and the world going back to its previous way of working. The possibility of this happening is fairly low.

Indian investors have to worry about three more developments in early March. We expect oil prices to be increased any time after 7th March (the last date of polling in UP). Credit rating agency ICRA points out that “While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact amount of lagged revision in RSPs (retail selling prices) of MS (motor spirit) and HSD (high-speed diesel) that is warranted by the surge in crude oil prices to the current levels, we expect it to be in a range of Rs 6-8/litre, i.e., similar to the cushion offered by potential excise reversion to pre-Covid rates,” its Chief Economist Aditi Nayar said in a report.

The international crude oil price, in Indian basket terms, surpassed the USD 100 per barrel mark on February 24 for the first time since September 4, 2014, the report said. The price of the Indian crude oil basket has averaged USD 93.1 per barrel so far in February 2022, a 10.5 percent surge relative to USD 84.2 per barrel in January 2022, it added.

Another development to watch out for is the results of five state assembly polls that will be announced on 10th March. Global investors are watching Fed action on interest rates to be announced on 16th March. This may bring some volatility to asset prices in emerging markets such as India.

The third development to watch will be the IPO of Life Insurance Corporation. The timing and size of the issue have not been announced yet. This could be a very large issue and reduce the liquidity in the market. Investors may sell other holdings to invest in this IPO. This could lead to a decline in share prices around the time of the IPO.

Another development to watch out for would be the conclusion of the Winter Olympics in China, which had affected the supply of key raw materials, especially heavy metals and pharma companies, due to Beijing’s determination to reduce pollution. We can expect the supply chain woes dependent on Chinese raw materials to ease, lowering the pressure on costs.

Should we add defensive sectors to the portfolio?

In uncertain economic times, investors have preferred to invest in defensive sectors like software services, pharma, and the consumer sector in the past. Is it time to do that again now?

We think the demand outlook for these sectors might not get impacted in the short term but high commodity prices will keep the margins under pressure for longer than anticipated. Companies will struggle to protect their margins and juggle between passing the inflation to consumers and cost-cutting. This may impact profit outlook adversely for the medium term eventually impacting the share prices. Industries getting impacted due to the shortage/inflation of RM and energy prices will have to cut down their discretionary spending. Companies may have to restrict ad and IT budgets to protect their margins. This may slow down the growth of Media and Entertainment and software companies in the medium term.

In summary, we think that investors should be patient with their investments before any clarity emerges on the prevailing economic issues- how the war and Indian elections affect the oil prices and Fed’s meeting on 15th March.

Disclaimer: “The views expressed are for information purposes only. The information provided herein should not be considered as investment advice or research recommendation. The users should rely on their own research and analysis and should consult their own investment advisors to determine the merit, risks, and suitability of the information provided.”

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