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  Devangshu Datta

Devangshu Datta a stock market consultant has a contrarian approach to the market. He is a consultant to a leading financial daily and many business magazines. He has a passion for chess, gambling and quizzing.

Bush or Gore?
"The ownership of US presidency will have a fringe impact on India. What is interesting is that Dalal Street doesn't seem to have figured this out."

It's time to go bottom-fishing
"If we assume that the downside could be a 3350 bottom and the upside could terminate at around 6000 in a two-year timeframe, the risk-reward equation is very much in favour of going long."

8000 listed companies, only 20 active stocks
"The abysmal Indian Olympic performance has parallels with performances in the Indian stock market. In the one field, you have one billion individuals and one bronze medal. In the other, you have 8,000 listed companies and just about 20 active performers."

The thriving grey market of derivatives
"The Indian equity market already has a thriving if illegal cluster of options instruments available and legitimising this grey market would not cause too much upheaval."

The second coming
"The re-introduction of derivatives after 30 years might actually make the market a safer place."

Putting India on hold
"If the Department of Telecom Services is not corporatised and flogged in a hurry, it will see a rapid erosion of valuation."

The P/E ratio through two decades
"How and why did a market that traded at single digit price-earnings multiples through the 1980s suddenly see an extraordinary explosion of valuations to 25?"

Why equity valuations should drop
"The recent rise in rupee interest rates coupled with not so robust first quarter results make it almost a certainty that the market will hit a new low fairly soon."

Factors point to further decline in rupee
"The pressures on the Indian currency are tremendous, and a depreciating rupee will eventually trigger interest-rate hikes. This will see corporates starving for cheap capital, thereby impacting the industry further."

Merger of exchanges
"Actually, the problems with an integration of Indian exchanges revolve around vested interests. The primary problem would be the loss of arbitrage opportunity."

It's momentum again!
"On price charts, most IT stocks also look to have formed positive bottoming formations."

Paswan's benevolence
"The valuation in the intended sell-offs of PSU telecom equity will drop by several multiples."

Environment activism to the fore
"Is this activism a good thing? Well, it may or may not be, but it is also as inevitable a product of globalisation as McDonald's or Infosys. To put it bluntly, if India's First World markets collapse, due to either ignorance or inability to address these concerns, we can kiss our 1991 gameplan goodbye."

Will RBI print more notes?
"If the forex inflow isn't there, pressure on money supply is inevitable. On India's track record, it would be optimistic to assume $ 26 billion worth of annual inflows anyway."

The recovery will not accelerate this year
"If you have deep pockets, and the ability to stay invested in a broad range of equities for an indeterminate period, you will certainly make money in the long run. You can hardly lose at these prices."

The gains for government will be immense
"If one analyses the IT Bill with a bias towards discovering the possible profit motives of government and the people who run it, it appears to be quite an effective document."

The imminent shakeout
"Zee has seen 60 per cent of its market value evaporating and this has seriously impacted the company's ability to raise cash via share issues as well as the notional net worth of its current stockholders. A premium on transparency in accounting practices may induce it to avoid such jugglery."

Time to buy?
"Does this make it a good time to buy IT stocks for the long-term? Factoring in the growth rates and assuming they are maintained, IT now looks like a reasonable option. I would, however, prefer to wait a bit longer. There are several reasons for hoping these stocks will get cheaper."

Stay with defensive stocks
"On the personal finance front, it is sensible to stay with a core portfolio of defensive stocks. Obviously fixed interest instruments will deliver very low or negative returns in such a situation, while growth stocks will also underperform."

Reflex action
"The NASDAQ does, after all, have an established habit of bouncing to higher highs after a violent retraction. But any market will reverse trend sooner or later. At that time, let us hope that reflexivity doesn't induce a serious global recession. It won't if Europe andJapan have picked up by the time the American bull market breaks."

Will the bull market continue?
"In the current context, betting is in very bad odour. So, the next question is going to sound in bad taste. After the trading pattern of the last four days when the Sensex climbed nearly 18 per cent, it may also sound as though it is coming from the realm of the absurd. Here goes anyway - what price that India is already on the cusp of a long bear market and the bear grip will become stifling within the next quarter?"

Income Tax department vs FIIs
"If the IT department does indeed win this ruling, it would be a Pyrrhic victory. This could destroy the attractiveness of India as a destination for portfolio investment. In which case, the IT department would suddenly cease to collect any taxes at all from FIIs because they wouldn't be around. The macroeconomic consequences would be a nightmare."

The strange case of the rupee
"In broader macroeconomic terms, one would have expected the serious fiscal slippage in the last year to have exerted even more downward pressure on the rupee. But given the Moody's outlook upgrade and the fact that FIIs are still net positive, it doesn't seem to have altered perceptions that much."

Dot com fever
"What is disturbing is that Internet fever is now catching on here even as it seems to be abating in its homeland. There could soon be an Indian bubble of unprecedented dimensions."

'New economy' stocks
"The 'new economy' scrips, which are from the infotech, entertainment and communications sectors, have outperformed the Sensex. But, most of the new firms in these sectors are going in for a Nasdaq listing, giving little room to the Indian investor to reap some benefit."

Budget blues
"Depending on which Budgetary Estimate of GDP one accepts, nominal GDP growth could vary from 3.17 per cent (Primary Deficit) to 10.87 per cent (Revenue Deficit) to 12.44 per cent (Fiscal Deficit). Take all cases, and factor in the Economic Survey's estimate that Wholesale Price Index (WPI) inflation is currently running at an average 2.9 per cent. Then accordingly adjust for the BE that inflation will stay below the 5 per cent mark. It appears real GDP growth could vary from negative to about 7-8 per cent."

Mutual funds on the go
"Mutual fund investors will have to fall back on the old methods of painstakingly scanning fund portfolios and tracking the NAV curve for violent swings and gyrations. The smoother the slope of the NAV, the easier the investor can sleep."

The Maruti drive
"MUL has also been hurt by a delayed expansion, which made it difficult to exploit the market expansion. It introduced the Wagon R (Rs 3.8- 4.8 lakh), some three years after it became a bestseller in Japan. The 1600 cc Baleno also came late to the luxury segment although it was launched at an attractive Rs 6.75 lakh. The 800 is operating on a 16-year old platform and has only recently seen the option of a new engine and gearbox which could improve performance."

The winds of change
"Modern Foods is the first time the government has relinquished management control. That, in itself, sends a good signal. It is also well timed since the company was sold as a going concern rather than after it became a BIFR case."

Getting ready for doom
"An Indian investor can buy growth stocks. He can hedge inflation via energy stocks and small growth stocks. He can't hedge environmental damage at all. He can't hedge with real estate and gold without enormously overweighing his portfolio allocation. He can't hedge deflation very efficiently via the bond market and he can't participate in insurance plays at all. So an Indian investor will be forced into a more aggressive posture whether he likes it or not."

Moral of the story
"The PPF rate cut is a politically brave decision. It will alienate the middle class, which is a major BJP vote bank. Who knows, it may spur the government to take even braver decisions in the budget like cutting the kerosene/LPG subsidy? That would save far more. Given the current situation of political stability, the BJP can reasonably expect to stick around long enough to ride out the inevitable backlash if it slashes subsidies."

Efficiency brings volatility
"A series of relatively large daily swings is a more efficient correction mechanism than general calm interspersed by occasional violence. In the earlier environment, the big swing was usually induced by either an unexpectedly good or bad budget or a change in government. It was managed and exploited by a relatively small number of big players who manipulated prices on relatively low volumes."

Y2K and the police bug
"Assuming the IT Bill becomes an Act, the following situations are possible. One: the local Deputy Superintendent of Police t\ells his boys to check out every house in a neighbourhood where there is "reasonable suspicion" of a cybercrime. A constable walks in while my 11-year-old nephew is playing hearts on my home PC. He arrests my nephew and me, and confiscates my PC. There is "reasonable suspicion" that we are gambling with cards visible on screen. He can even arrest me just because I have MS Hearts on my PC so I could be gambling! If I've removed the hearts icon, I could still be arrested under "reasonable suspicion" of using a pirated operating system! He doesn't need a warrant - just a "reasonable suspicion."

The fads and fancies of the 21st century investor
"Will we continue to see action restricted to the Golden Triad of IT, FMCG and pharma? Probably for a while yet. But if the economy takes off and insurance in particular starts to mop up middle-class savings, we may see a whole host of smokestack, core-sector, infrastructure industries as well as healthcare services zooming. At any rate, the 21st century investor will have a much easier trading environment than his predecessor will."

Is book-building a boon or bane?
"A new two-edged trend in the IPO market is the book building process. This is an adoption of the standard US procedure. There, the book-building is done at the institutional level and retail allotment is done by the allottees to their retail clientele. Here the book-building procedure has been applied to all comers in the Hughes and HCL issues. This has certain disadvantages."

Roadblocks to e-prosperity
"So out of a list of ten identified growth trends, India is completely cut out of four and possesses possible competitive advantages in another four. All those advantages arise from the same basic source of a wonderful higher education system that churns out low-cost, high-tech capable people."

Is a good brand a good investment?
"Analysts do like good brands and the "focus investing" school in particular loves them. But there is no objectively satisfactory way of quantifying brand-value. The standard balance-sheet valuation exercises are generally pretty notional and based on premises that don't hold good in the real world. Brands are usually treated as wasting assets while costs are amortised. The concept of brands gradually eroding in value directly contradicts the observation that good brands get stronger with the passage of time. "

Why some lose more than others
"In the midst of all this good cheer, I thought it would be more interesting to look at the losers. After all, India doesn't really have too many industries that are classifiable as clearly counter-cyclical. The systemic risk is considered low at the moment, so under-performance could either be a function of inaccurate valuation or a company-specific problem. "

Gail pricks the disinvestment bubble
"I realised that the only medical cover I could possess would not cover injuries that crippled me for six weeks. I learnt that I might forgo my claim in an emergency if I was forced into a hospital that Mediclaim did not recognise. If I died, my widow would spend four months running around for her money."

Privatise or be damned
"I realised that the only medical cover I could possess would not cover injuries that crippled me for six weeks. I learnt that I might forgo my claim in an emergency if I was forced into a hospital that Mediclaim did not recognise. If I died, my widow would spend four months running around for her money."

Fundamental analysis beats random walking
'In India, simple low-brain mechanical methods of reading how the market moves can beat the best of no-brain Index-based strategies.'

Why is demat a pain?
'The pros of demat system will soon be overweighed by the cons unless the authorities act fast.'

IT Ministry a bane for the IT sector?
'IT stock prices will see a huge correction as the market adjusts. When will IT stocks crash? Perhaps on the day the new IT ministry issues its first directive! Perhaps on the day Alan Greenspan raises American interest rates and Wall Street and Nasdaq start spinning down.'

Caught In The Oil Slick
'Investors holding on to shares of oil firms should pray that the new government quickly dismantle the administered price mechanism'

Elections and the Bear Hug
A fragile, insecure coalition would be the most dynamic force for reforms. And, that is also the situation when prices will fall most drastically in the short run. So, a hung parliament would actually be a wonderful investment opportunity!'