5 reasons why mutual funds have tanked up on banking stocks
In a recent survey conducted by Moody’s Investor Service, 70 percent of market participants pooled said that India’s banking system was the most vulnerable in South Asia. Stress in the banking system has made headlines for over three years now. Analysts, experts, and economists have all predicted doomsday which has not yet come. However, to be fair to experts the balance sheet numbers of the banks have continuously deteriorated in most of the cases.
Despite the red flags staring at most Indian banks, mutual fund managers do not seem to bother about them. Reports say that the allocation to the banking sector by mutual funds has reached an all-time high of Rs 1.47 lakh crore at the end of June.
Why would funds like to invest in banks which everyone fears will implode? Here are five reasons we think banks are on mutual funds’s radar.
- Valuation: Given the current valuation in markets, very few sectors offer a good risk-reward bet. With Nifty over 10,000 and market price-to-earnings in the top quadrant, there are few sectors and stocks that offer value. While Bank Nifty has touched a new high of 25,030, there are stocks in the sector, especially in the public sector space, that offers better valuation but higher risk.
- Liquidity: Mutual funds in India are witnessing heavy inflows. New investors and higher investment through systematic investment plan (SIP) is compelling mutual funds to take more risks. Despite record investments in the banking sector, mutual funds are still sitting on cash levels of 5.7 percent on an aggregate basis. Some funds have cash positions ranging between 8-18 percent. Peer pressure and rising markets compel them to invest.
- Index weightage: One parameter that every fund manager is ranked on is his performance with respect to the index. As weightage of banking stock in the index is high at near 30 percent, fund managers are compelled to buy banking stocks in order to be close to the index performance.
- Too precious to fail: Though asset qualities of most banks are questionable these banks are all too big to fail. For the government and the central bank, it will be very embarrassing to allow a bank to fail. Both the central bank and the government have been trying to recapitalise banks, tweaking the rule books, bringing in new schemes to help banks clean up their books. Bankruptcy law is now cleared and cases are registered. This is expected to go a long way in recovery and solving the problem with bigger non-performing assets. Apart from these measures, the government has also initiated merging of weaker banks with the stronger ones, in turn, creating a bigger and stronger bank.
- Proxy for growth: The banking sector has traditionally been considered as a proxy for the economy. Every activity in the economy requires money. Banking sector credit growth has historically been between 2-2.5 times GDP growth. However, with the toxic asset problems and other sources of non-banking finance available in the market, the ratio has fallen to nearly 1.6 times the GDP. This ratio is expected to improve as banks start lending again in line with the growth in the economy.