India’s Nifty Index Futures Drop on Food Bill, Weakening Rupee

Indian (SENSEX) stock-index futures fell after the nation’s currency resumed losses and the government passed legislation expanding the world’s largest food program.

SGX CNX Nifty Index futures for August delivery dropped 0.8 percent to 5,418 at 10:10 a.m. in Singapore. The underlying CNX Nifty (NIFTY) Index added 0.1 percent to 5,476.50 yesterday. The S&P BSE Sensex gained 0.2 percent. The Bank of New York Mellon India ADR Index of U.S.-traded shares declined 1.1 percent. The rupee slumped 1.5 percent to 64.3075 per dollar yesterday, while one-month rupee forwards lost 0.6 percent to 65.60 today.

The Sensex retreated 12 percent from this year’s high on July 23 through Aug. 21 amid concern steps to stem a record slide in the rupee will curb economic growth. The food bill, which gives subsidized grain to two-thirds of India’s 1.2 billion people, involves spending about 1.25 trillion rupees ($19.5 billion) in subsidies each year at a time when the government is running budget and current-account deficits.

“The food bill is a populist measure and will put pressure on government finances,” Surya Narayan Nayak, an analyst at Networth Stock Broking Ltd., said by phone from Mumbai today. “This also shows the government is gearing up for the polls and there could be more populist measures and political uncertainty, which is not good for market sentiments. We expect the rupee to remain weak.”

Populist Measures

With the passage of the bill before elections due by May, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has a defining piece of legislation to woo rural voters in his second term, as economic growth slowed to a decade low and the rupee lost a third of its value in the past five years.

Central bank efforts to bolster the currency in the past month, including raising two interest rates and tightening lenders’ access to cash, have so far failed to arrest its decline.

International investors sold Indian stocks for a fifth day on Aug. 23, offloading a net $208.7 million worth of shares, data from the market regulator showed yesterday. That pared this year’s net inflow to $11.9 billion, still the second-largest among 10 Asian markets tracked by Bloomberg.

The slowest economic growth in a decade in the year ended March 31 and the tumbling currency are hurting company earnings. Combined profits for the 30 companies in the Sensex increased 1.4 percent in the three months ended June, compared with an estimate of 5.8 percent before the reporting season began, Bank of America Corp. analysts Jyotivardhan Jaipuria and Anand Kumar wrote in a report dated Aug. 19.

About 47 percent of Sensex companies that posted earnings for the June quarter missed analyst estimates. That compares with 27 percent for the March quarter, and 43 percent in the three months ended December, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The Sensex has lost 4.5 percent this year and trades at 13.2 times projected 12-month earnings, compared with the MSCI Emerging Markets Index’s 9.9 times.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rajhkumar K Shaaw in Mumbai at rshaaw@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Patterson at mpatterson10@bloomberg.net

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