The Union Budget for 2019-20 was presented by India's first full-time woman Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. While markets corrected in customary fashion, coming as they did after a rally and a buoyant market over the last four months or so, the real test would be how markets fare in the coming week.
Looking at the budget purely from the market perspective, one finds there are many initiatives which have been taken. Three key issues have been tackled on a war footing. The NBFC crisis, real estate and affordable housing and PSU banks and NPA crisis have been dealt with in a convincing manner.
The onus of housing finance companies being brought under the Reserve Bank of India's regulation is a welcome step. Further, the permission to PSU banks to buy paper of NBFCs with a 10 per cent risk being assured by the government for the first six months is a welcome step. The decision to infuse Rs 70,000 crore into the PSU banks is beyond what even the most optimistic thought.
In realty, the further interest rebate of Rs 1.5 lakh would help home buying while help genuine realty players to sell inventory. This would also spur building activity.
What could at best be termed as knee-jerk reaction is companies in manufacturing activities where customs duties have been raised coming under selling pressure. Tile manufacturers lost ground when duties were levied on ceramics which are imported or marble slabs. Similarly, Titan fell when duty on gold was raised. Gold is a pass-through item and an increase of customs duty of 2.5 per cent from 10 per cent earlier would impact prices marginally but not significantly change demand.
Air conditioner manufacturers would benefit with customs duty being raised on split ACs, so why prices of Voltas or Havell's fell is indeed surprising.
What should enthuse the market going forward is the huge spending being proposed for infrastructure spending. Further, the decision to leverage the borrowing in foreign currency will help in stabilising the currency and also get foreign sovereign loans for long term liabilities. This announcement has seen bond yields soften over the last two days.
The government would recommend to the SEBI to increase the public shareholding of listed entities to be 35 per cent from the present 25 per cent. Over the timeframe that the SEBI would give companies to adhere this new proposal, it would take about three years and broadly speaking give investors a chance to acquire quality stocks of top companies at a fair value of roughly Rs 4 lakh crore.
An anomaly which existed on the way STT was calculated on options has been resolved with the same to be now charged on the market price and the strike price. This would help in volumes increasing in options trade.
The divestment target set for 2019-20 by the government is Rs 1.05 lakh crore and this would include through ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) which have become very popular.
The surcharge on income tax has been raised for people who have an income of Rs 2 crore or more. Less than a percent of India's population would figure in this category. They would consist of senior professionals in the top companies and also promoters of large corporate. If they have to share a higher burden, there should be no concern for the common man.
Tax has been imposed on buyback of shares and this was certainly in the offing with the number of companies who chose this route in the last financial year after long term capital gains tax was introduced.
The budget has been announced and the fine print is under the scanner. While many positives and negatives would emerge, the market disappointment today certainly seems overdone.
One should see the market performance in the coming week to judge the market reading of the budget, particularly the institutional investors.
Arun Kejriwal is founder of Kejriwal Research and Investment Services