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How investors can gain from the stock market correction

The market’s dream run has been halted. With benchmark indices such as the Sensex and the Nifty falling more than 10% from their respective peaks, the market is now in a correction phase. But fears of a bear market are unwarranted. For the Indian stock market to be termed bearish, the broader indices must fall by another 10%—a 20% cut from the peak signals a bear market. Experts don’t believe that markets will enter the bear phase. 

“The Indian stock market is just in a correction phase and it’s not a bear market. The ingredients that signals a bear market are not there,” says Shankar Sharma, Vice-Chairman and Joint MD, First Global. The warning signals—hyper speculation, companies without strong fundamentals leading the market, etc. are missing. Big macro-economic crisis can also trigger a bear market, but as the global economy is picking up now, we can discount that possibility in the near future

Expect volatility in 2018-19 
“The market will remain on tenterhooks due to political headwinds and high valuations. Unexpected moves from the US President, Donald Trump, can also hurt the market,” says Raamdeo Agrawal, Joint MD and Co-Founder, Motilal Oswal Securities. 

The upcoming Karnataka elections are being seen as a semi-final match for the Lok Sabha elections in 2019. If the incumbent Congress retains power in Karnataka, it will raise doubts about the NDA retaining power at the Centre in 2019. “There might be some political sentiment-driven correction if the BJP doesn’t win Karnataka,” says Amar Ambani, Head, Research, IIFL. 

The assembly elections in two major states ruled by the BJP—Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh—will also test the market. Experts say that investors should not get jittery because of short-term volatility. “Election induced volatility is normal and there is nothing to worry about it. The fear of a coalition government after 2019 is also unwarranted. In the past 25 years, coalition governments have delivered better GDP growth. Coalition will also bring control on government policies,” says Sharma. India's Best SEBI Registered Investment Advisor

Staying put during periods of short-term volatility, such as the one induced by elections, has proved beneficial for investors, historical data shows. “In five out of the past six parliamentary elections, the market has delivered handsome return for holding shares during the turbulent times,” says Prateek Agrawal, CIO, ASK Investment Managers.

Another factor that will keep the market in check are higher valuations. Though Sensex PE has fallen from 26 in January, when it was in the grossly overvalued zone of 24-28, to 22. It is still in the slightly overvalued zone of 20-24. The Sensex EPS, which has remained flat for the past three years, slightly improved to Rs 1,466 compared to Rs 1,416 during March 2015 and things are beginning to improve now. 

“With the bad effects of demonetisation and teething troubles of GST behind us, earnings growth is expected to pick up,” says G. Pradeep Kumar, CEO, Union Mutual Fund. “The December quarter was good and the March quarter is likely to be good as well. We expect 17-18% EPS growth in 2018-19,” says Agrawal of ASK Investment. 

However, experts warn that the high earnings growth may not get fully reflected in stock prices. “The expected economic and earnings growth may not result in higher returns because valuations need to correct from higher levels. So, investors may end up getting only mediocre returns in 2018,” says Motilal Oswal’s Agrawal. 

On the global front, the continued rate hike by the US Federal Reserve poses a challenge to the Indian market. “The US Federal Reserve has made its intention clear, and it will keep on increasing rates in the coming year,” says Kumar. According to Bloomberg estimates, the US Fed is expected to raise rates thrice in 2018. But rate hikes may not be as big a threat as some commentators have suggested. 

The Indian stock market has done relatively well during periods of earlier rate hikes by the US Fed. For instance, the stock market delivered fabulous returns between 2004 and 2006, when the US Fed rate moved from 1% to 5.25%. “The US rate increase is not a big worry now because it will be slow and calibrated. The global economy is picking up and the US corporate profits are also good,” says Ambani. Though the trade war-related fears have subsided a bit, rash moves by the US President on trade c .. 

Don’t panic, continue with SIPs 
As explained earlier, we are in a correction and not a bear market. So what should investors do? Should they move out or stop new investments? “There is no need for investors to exit the market. If you want to win, you need to be in the game,” says Motilal Oswal’s Agrawal. Chandresh Nigam, MD and CEO, Axis Mutual Fund concurs: “Investors shouldn’t allow market sentiment to affect their return expectations. We are comfortable allocating to equities when the market is doing well and hesitate or ho .. 

Continuing with systematic investment plans (SIPs) is the best strategy for long-term investors. Since an SIP works on the principle of rupee cost averaging—you buy more mutual fund units when the prices are down and less when prices are high—volatility will work in favour of regular SIP investors. 

Not only should you continue with your existing SIPs, you should increase your investment—for instance, buy when the broader market index is down by more than 1%. The best timing strategy for long-term investors is to go by market valuations: Increase equity stake when the market is in the fair or under-valuation zone 

Review asset allocation
Asset allocation review should be done on a regular basis and the start of the financial year is the best time to do it. Volatile times also require that investors review their portfolio. As a first step, you need to find out what how different is your portfolio’s existing asset allocation compared to your preferred, original asset allocation. If you have not reviewed your portfolio for years, your equity allocation might have gone up due to their massive outperformance over the past few years.  .. 
If the gap between your existing and original equity allocation is wide, you need to set it right by paring down your equity exposure. If you had re-aligned your investments at the end of last quarter, your equity exposure might have come down due to the ongoing correction, and you can consider increasing it back to its original levels. “By reviewing your portfolio systematically, at regular intervals, you can convert sell-offs into an opportunity rather than a crisis,” says Nigam. 

If you are among the investors who opt for tactical asset allocation based on the market situation, you need to hold your horses. Since valuations are still in the slightly overvalued zone, do not increase your equity allocation. Wait for the Sensex PE to fall below 20, before you start buying. 

India's Number One Investment Advisor | Ideal Stock India's Number One Investment Advisor | Ideal Stock Reviewed by Ideal Stock on April 02, 2018 Rating: 5

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