The Bombay Stock Exchange building in Mumbai. Photo: AFP
The Bombay Stock Exchange building in Mumbai. Photo: AFP

The Indian stock markets have been on a losing streak ever since the union budget was announced on July 5 by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Investor wealth has been eroded by trillions of rupees.

Roiling the markets have been the proposal to increase minimum public shareholding of listed companies to 35% from the current 25%, higher tax for the super rich and higher import duty on gold and other precious metals.

On the other hand, the budget offered little to address the slowdown across all sectors, from automobiles to day-to-day consumer goods. Stock market investors, who had overwhelmingly backed Narendra Modi during the recent general elections, were expecting that the first budget during his second term would bring in proposals to revive the sagging economy, but their hopes were belied.

Investors have lost over 6.59 trillion rupees (US$95.52 billion) since budget day. The market capitalization of the Bombay Stock Exchange on July 5 was 151.35 trillion rupees and on July 22 it had come down to 144.76 trillion rupees. In the last three trading days alone the market capitalization of BSE-listed companies eroded by 4.37 trillion rupees ($63.30 billion).

The budget proposed to increase the surcharge on individuals with taxable income of 20-50 million rupees per annum to 25% and for those earning more than 50 million rupees to 37%. This has not gone down well with foreign portfolio investors.

It was hoped that the government would roll back the proposed hikes, but last Thursday the Parliament passed the finance bill for the current fiscal year without any amendments to the higher tax surcharge proposed for the super-rich category. The prompted a sell-off by foreigners.

Data suggest outflows by those investors stood at 77.12 billion rupees ($1.12 billion) in July. Foreign portfolio investors buying in the domestic market had been declining since March, when they infused 339.80 billion rupees ($4.92 billion) in a single month. In June it was 25.96 billion rupees ($376 million).

In addition, some weak numbers during the current earnings reports season also led to depressed market sentiment. On Monday the surprise losers were private banks, which were often perceived as a safe bet by investors. This happened after HDFC Bank reported weakness in asset quality and a slowdown in retail loan growth in the June quarter.

The rise in bad loans at HDFC Bank, the country’s biggest lender by market capitalization, spooked investors because it has a reputation for recording stable earnings growth every quarter. The bank said gross non-performing assets rose to 1.4% from 1.36% in March quarter. Loan growth slowed to 17% at the end of June quarter compared with 24.5% at the end of March quarter.

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