ICICI Bank Rallies on Opposition Policy Optimism: Mumbai Mover

ICICI Bank Ltd. led banks higher in Mumbai stock trading on speculation India’s main opposition party will take over government, enabling it to enact policies to bolster economic growth and curb bad loans.

ICICI, India’s largest private sector lender, surged 6.5 percent to 1,135.85 rupees, the biggest gain since Sept. 6, at the close of Mumbai trading. HDFC Bank Ltd. jumped 4.6 percent to 688.1 rupees. The S&P BSE Bankex index of 13 banking stocks gained 4.4 percent to a five-month high.

The Bharatiya Janata Party is set to win four of five state elections held in the past month, an exit poll showed yesterday, giving it momentum against the ruling Congress party ahead of national voting next year. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analysts upgraded Indian equities to market weight from underweight on Nov. 5, saying the state polls may signal an opposition win in the federal vote, helping spur investment.

“Sentiments are bolstered by the exit polls,” Hatim Broachwala, a Mumbai-based banking analyst at Karvy Stock Broking Ltd., said by phone today. “Investors seems to believe that a change in government will put growth back on track and improve profitability at lenders.”

CLSA Asia Pacific Markets “favors” ICICI and Axis Bank as cyclicals will do well with the possibility of a stable national government, the brokerage said in a note today. Axis Bank Ltd. gained 4.2 percent to 1,241.5 rupees.

Bad loans at Indian banks rose to 3.9 percent of total lending as of June 30 from 2.4 percent in March 2011, data compiled by the central bank show. Stressed assets, which include soured debt and restructured loans, will reach a 17-year high of 15 percent of total loans by 2015, Saswata Guha, a Mumbai-based director at Fitch Ratings Ltd.’s India unit, said in an Oct. 24 telephone interview.

India’s economy expanded 5 percent in the year ended March, the slowest pace since 2003, and less than the 10-year average of about 8 percent.

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