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India-themed funds dominate in 2014 as investors cheer Modi

India-themed funds dominate in 2014 as investors cheer Modi

Emerging markets have provided investors with the best and worst returns of 2014, with league tables of mutual fund performance showing India-themed vehicles dominating the top and Russia conspicuous at the bottom.

Mutual funds specialising in Indian stocks account for 25 of the top 30 performers out of more than 3,400 funds available for sale in the UK for the first nine months of 2014, according to data from Lipper, a Thomson Reuters company that tracks the asset management industry.

India’s benchmark BSE Sensex reached an all-time high on September 8 and by the end of the month had climbed more than 28 percent from the start of the year. India-focused funds topping the league table have returned 40-50 percent this year.

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Much of this momentum was spurred by euphoria surrounding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s landslide election victory in May and his pro-business pledges to boost growth.

Avinash Vazirani, manager of Jupiter Asset Management’s India fund, which ranked 12th after growing 37 percent over the nine months to the end of September, says India’s economy is set to enjoy a further lift in coming months from a weak oil price.

India imports most of its energy so a falling oil price will benefit the government’s budget, boost the balance of trade and help curb inflation, in turn leading to possible interest rate cuts, he said.

“All of this is very positive for the economy. Add to that mix a new prime minister whose sole focus appears to be getting things done. He’s actually realised what ails India is lack of execution,” Vazirani said.

In contrast, the bottom fifth of the performance rankings list is dominated by Russia-themed funds.

Russian assets have endured months of punishment from a triple whammy of Western sanctions in response to Moscow’s role in the Ukraine crisis, an economy headed for recession and the impact of falling oil prices on its budget and balance of payments.

Nine of the bottom 10 funds are Russia-focused, losing between 20 percent and 27 percent over the period. The rouble denominated MCX equities index is down around 7 percent.

To some investors the contrasting performance of two ’emerging’ countries highlights the folly of lumping together dozens of diverse economies in a single emerging markets category for the purpose of devising benchmarks.

“Rather than recognising the enormous nuances that exist between countries and corporations across the globe … markets tend instead to boil everything down to simple binary choices,” said Jan Dehn, head of research at emerging markets focused fund manager Ashmore Investment Management in London.

“The reality is that EM is now extremely diverse and nuanced. The challenges facing Russia today have absolutely nothing to do with anything happening in the Brazilian election. Optimism in India over the new Modi administration tells us nothing whatsoever about Erdogan’s political agenda in Turkey.”

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