Earnings disappointment a risk for market; Nifty may end at 15,500 by year end: JPMorgan

By Ashutosh Joshi

Equity investors in India face the risk of earnings disappointment after a rally that’s propelled the local stock benchmark to successive records this year, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.

As business activity resumes following one of the world’s deadliest coronavirus outbreaks, consensus earnings estimates may end up being overdone, said Sanjay Mookim, head of India equity research at JPMorgan.

“Valuations in India are looking extended,” Mookim said in a video interview. “There is an expectation or belief that reopening equals growth. We see many reasons that, even if we open up, we may not be in a very strong economic growth path.”

The relentless rally in Indian stocks fueled by optimism over the economy’s long-term potential and central bank stimulus has boosted valuations, leaving little margin for error when it comes to earnings performance. The Reserve Bank of India projects gross domestic product to rise 9.5% this year, a sharp rebound after an unprecedented contraction in the 12 months to March as pandemic curbs crippled activity.


The NSE Nifty 50 Index — which hit another all-time high just last week — has climbed almost 13% so far in 2021 versus a 3.1% gain in the regional MSCI Asia Pacific Index.

The Indian measure is trading at 20.8 times its forward earnings estimates for the next 12 months, during which member profits are expected to grow about 44%, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s versus a five-year average valuation multiple of 18.

Retail Exuberance
Mookim has an year-end target of 15,500 for the Nifty gauge, which implies a 1.7% decline from current levels.

“As the economy opens up in November-December, or even earlier perhaps, then companies may realize the trajectory of sales is not as strong as they had earlier estimated, then you will start to see more realistic expectations again,” he said in a July 1 interview.

His comments come as India’s retail investors are closing in on record levels of euphoria in the stock market, which may be an ominous sign for the country’s rally if history is a guide.

An index of 100 mid-cap stocks has surged 32% year-to-date, while a similar measure of small-cap names has rallied 43%.

“There is a certain exuberance that’s clearly built into the broader smallcap-midcap market at the moment,” said Mookim. “It is very difficult to justify valuations for a whole lot of these midcap companies.”

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