Karachi Stock Index Beat BRICs in 2010
Pakistan's key share index KSE-100 was just over 1000 points at the end of 1999, and it closed at 12022.46 on Dec 31, 2010, sgnificantly outperforming BRIC markets for the decade. Pakistan rupee remained quite stable at 60 rupees to a US dollar until 2008, slipping only recently to a range of 80-85 rupees to a dollar. In spite of the currency decline, Pakistan's KSE-100 stock index surged 55% in 2009 in US dollar terms and 65% in rupee terms. During the same period of 1999-2009, Mumbai Sensex index moved from just over 5000 points to close at 17,464.81.
If you had invested $100 in KSE-100 stocks on Dec. 31, 1999, you'd have over $1000 today, while $100 invested in Mumbai's Sensex stocks would be worth about $400. Investment of $100 in emerging-market stocks in general on Dec. 31, 1999 would get you about $300 today, while $100 invested in the S&P500 would be essentially flat at $100 today.
The US Federal Reserve's current easy money policy, euphemistically called "quantitative easing", sent a torrent of US dollars flooding into the US, European and emerging markets around the world. All three major US stock indices rose in 2010. The Dow was up 1,149.46, or 11 percent. The S&P gained 142.54, or 12.8 percent. The Nasdaq ended higher by 383.72, or 16.9 percent.
Some of the US stimulus money found its way into India and Pakistan as well. The 28% gain in KSE-100 is driven in part by net foreign capital inflows of Rs. 43 billion ($515 million US dollars) in 2010. Similarly, global funds bought a net 6.05 billion rupees ($135 million) of Indian equities on Dec. 29, taking this year’s record flows into equities to 1.31 trillion rupees ($27 billion US dollars), according to data on the Securities and Exchange Board of India website. India's FII inflows surged 61 percent in 2010, making the gauge the most expensive in Asia and among the BRIC markets.
While China's situation is superior among the emerging markets, including BRICs, because it enjoys significant current account surpluses and has strong capital flow controls, it is also seeing its economy overheat along with India's economy. Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Laureate Columbia University economist, has argued that India is more vulnerable to an asset bubble than China, saying that “strong economies that don’t yet have capital control become the focal point” for the liquidity injected by the US Federal Reserve. Stiglitz thinks that India, more than China or Brazil, should watch out for the tidal wave of money made available from the Fed’s quantitative easing. Mike Shedlock, an American investment advisor, believes that "India and China are going to overheat and crash, or their economic growth is going to slow dramatically, quite possibly both".
Although the hot money does help to partially fund the growing current account deficits in both India and Pakistan, the net inflow of $515 million of FII in Pakistan is relatively small at 0.3% of its GDP, and it is less likely to impact the economy even if all of it goes away in 2011. In India's case, however, the $27 billion in FII represents a little over 2% of its GDP and its sudden flight out of India is a substantial risk for Indian economy.
In my opinion, the uncertain US and European economic recoveries and future monetary policy of the US Federal Reserve in 2011 and beyond represent the greatest source of instability for capital markets in the emerging nations such as India and Pakistan, which impose relatively lax controls on short-term capital flows.
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