Asia Markets

Indian stocks surge to new highs again as election season goes into full swing

Key Points
  • On Thursday morning, India's benchmark S&P BSE Sensex index jumped to a record high in early trade, as did the broader Nifty 50.
  • Analysts attributed those moves to optimism surrounding India's election, which started last week.
  • They also pointed to other factors, such as record high foreign inflows and better-than-expected growth in China's economy.
Indian election officials check polling material and Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) at a distribution centre in Hyderabad on April 10, 2019, a day before the beginning of the first phase of India's general election.
Noah Seelam | AFP | Getty Images

India's benchmark stocks surged to fresh highs this week — after busting a previous record earlier this month, as elections go into full swing in the world's largest democracy.

On Thursday morning, India's benchmark S&P BSE Sensex index surged past the 39,420 mark to a new high in early trade. It came just two days after another record high on Tuesday, when the index closed at 39,275.64.

The BSE Sensex had earlier broken past the 39,000 level for the first time on April 2.

Similarly, the broader Nifty 50 rose to an all-time high of 11,856.15 on Thursday, also surpassing its previous record on Tuesday at about 11,810.

India polls

Analysts attributed those moves to optimism surrounding India's election, which started last week, and is taking place in seven phases over six weeks. On Thursday, voting in the second phase kicked off.

"To a great extent, this move likely point(s) to the tendency for investors to factor in a favourable outcome at the elections and take profit after the final verdict," DBS economist Radhika Rao told CNBC in an email.

Prakash Sakpal, Asia economist at Dutch bank ING, also added that the surge is likely due to markets being in favor of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party winning.

Foreign investors are buying Indian equities on expectations of policy continuity following the general elections, and also amid the prospect of further RBI rate cuts helping to lift economic activity.
Khoon Goh
head of Asia research at ANZ

The coalition led by Modi's party is up against the Indian National Congress and its allies. But Modi's coalition is predicted to win 273 of the 543 parliament seats being contested, one seat more than the number needed to govern, Reuters reported earlier this month.

"The recent rally in Indian risky assets appears as market re-pricing for the incumbent Modi administration remaining in power for another term," Sakpal said. "The markets view such an outcome positive for the economy given that a stable government will ensure the continuation of current economic policies in the future."

China optimism

Rao from DBS also pointed to other factors, such as a dovish U.S. Federal Reserve and China's stimulus-driven growth "taking hold."

On Wednesday, Beijing said its economy expanded by 6.4 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2019, topping the 6.3 percent that analysts polled by Reuters had expected. Analysts attributed the better-than-expected performance to measures taken by Beijing to support its economy.

"Domestically, equity markets have benefited from a return from offshore investors, (merger and acquisition) flows and optimism over the election outcome," Rao added.

In a note last week, ANZ Research pointed to record high stock inflows from foreign investors, which amounted to $6.1 billion in March.

"Foreign investors are buying Indian equities on expectations of policy continuity following the general elections, and also amid the prospect of further RBI rate cuts helping to lift economic activity," said Khoon Goh, the head of Asia research at ANZ.

India's central bank cut rates in April for the second time this year. Analysts say another rate cut could come in June or August. Lower interest rates typically encourage business and consumer spending, and help lift the flagging economy.

— CNBC's Yen Nee Lee contributed to this report.