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India's long-term story positive, a pickup in US to boost EMs, too: Geoff Lewis

"We are probably going to see a looser fiscal stance. Trump has promised to cut taxes and to raise spending on infrastructure. He is business friendly," says Lewis.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Nov 14, 2016, 09.05 AM IST
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"We have been surprised by the fact that there hasn't been a bigger risk off episode. So there is no obvious buying opportunity at the moment," he says.
"We have been surprised by the fact that there hasn't been a bigger risk off episode. So there is no obvious buying opportunity at the moment," he says.
India is expensive in the short term and investors are not wishing to be as overweight as they were, said Geoff Lewis, global market strategist at the capital markets group of Manulife Asset Management. In an interview to Sanam Mirchandani, Hong Kong-based Lewis said Indian government's move to scrap higher-value notes will not have major macro economic implications. Edited excerpts:

Q. How are you reading the Donald Trump victory?
A.
It certainly has been a surprise. US pollsters have got some egg on their face. In that sense it is a bit like Brexit but this political shock has potential to dwarf Brexit in importance given the central role of the US to the world economy and financial markets. Markets don't like uncertainty, but the sense that Trump has not been very specific on his economic policies, it is early days and very hard for markets to discount what the nature of the Trump administration is going to be like.

Q. What does Trump's win mean for protectionism as an emerging trend?
A.
A lot of people were expecting a much sharper correction in the event of a Trump victory which has not happened and possibly their opinions were influenced by their own political prejudices.

It does bring home the fact that a large pro portion of the middle and working class constituency in America do feel let down and disappointed by the costs of disruptive trade games by emerging markets and this is something which the incoming Trump administration has said that it would address. Trump is not necessarily going to introduce more extreme isolationism and trade barriers that he was mentioning on the campaign trail.

A more buoyant US economy is going to be positive for emerging markets.

Q. How much of Trump's campaign rhetoric will become reality in your view?
A.
Firstly, there are checks and balances in the US constitution which means the President can't have his own way in all the areas. He has more scope to influence scenarios like immigration and trade policies; but he will have to have the agreement of his own Republican Party which now is in control of both houses when it comes to setting out fiscal and macro-economic policy objectives. That constraint is probably going to rule out some of Trump's more extreme macro-economic suggestions which would have added massive amounts to the deficit. I don't think we are going to see that.

We are probably going to see a looser fiscal stance. He has promised to cut taxes and to raise spending on infrastructure. He is business friendly. So we are going to see more pressure on wages and inflation and on long-term yields, and these policies could actually boost US growth and activity in the short term, possibly quite strongly from middle of next year.

Even if the Federal Reserve passes on a December rate hike because markets remain volatile in the short term, the Fed might find itself having to raise rates more on a sharper trajectory than markets have been assuming under a Clinton administration. It is going to be inflationary.It is going to put some pressure on both shortand long-term rates in the US economy. But it is not necessarily going to be bad for US growth and employment provided President Trump does not pursue conflict with trading partners.

It is quite likely some of his wilder proposed policy measures such as tariff on Chinese imports-those are most likely not to proceed with those. He will be more moderate while he is in power.

So provided we see him toning down on some of the things like withdrawing from The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other trade agreements, it may not be so bad for the US equity market if he manages to actually stimulate the US economy.

Q. Will the uncertainty continue for the emerging markets?
A.
I think it is cautionary for emerging markets in the short term because we just don't know how his policies are going to unfold in the trade arena. We have been surprised by the fact that there hasn't been a bigger risk off episode. So there is no obvious buying opportunity at the moment.

Q. The Indian government has scrapped higher denomination notes. How will it impact the Indian economy?
A.
I don't think the move in terms of scrapping higher notes has huge macro-economic implications. That fits in with the trend away from paper money towards economic settlement which we are seeing in other countries as well. India seems to be the first to move to abolish higher denominations. It does make things more difficult for the grey economy.

It is quite a strange move for an economy like India where the informal economy is still very important and quite a large part of it. It is going to make things more difficult I would imagine for some Indian small businesses and households that may be not so reliant on financial intermediaries.

Q. What is your outlook on Indian markets?
A.
India has got good long-run fundamentals. It is roughly expensive in the short term. We have not really seen big improvement in earnings, private investment has been very slow to pick up, so to some extent India seems to have the same problem as China. It is reliant in investment spending more on the public sector than the private sector.

India looks reasonable but investors are not wishing to be as overweight as they were. We might see a stronger US economy if President Trump does introduce sector investments, tax reforms and tax reductions and that actually would lead to stronger US growth, which would be positive for emerging markets.

We are looking at PMIs picking up across regions and so we will be seeing US GDP grow from the rather anaemic 1-1.5% that we have seen this year to at least 2-2.5% in 2017. That should help economies in Asia which have suffered from the slowdown in world trade.

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