By Gaurav Sinha
Looking back, 2015 was a tough year for emerging market (EM) equities and their currencies. A looming interest rate hike in the U.S., combined with a Chinese slowdown and falling commodities, ensured that most EM currencies faced tremendous downward pressure.
However, one currency that stood out was the Indian national rupee (INR). Below, we highlight why the rupee continues to be one of the best-performing EM currencies and two implications for allocations, for both the rupee and Indian equities.
Rupee-Positive Carry Trade Returns in 2015
Relative performance for currencies is often measured via the carry trade (i.e., selling a currency that yields a lower interest rate and using the proceeds to purchase a higher-yielding currency).
In 2015, the INR and its associated interest rates outperformed all EM currencies from a risk-adjusted basis when compared against the U.S. dollar.1 Someone who invested in Indian rupees via forward contracts and collected the interest rates would have earned positive returns in an otherwise very challenging landscape.
Currency and Interest Rate: Sharpe Ratio
What's the Trend for 2016?
Looking on a forward basis, the chart below compares how much deposit rate an investor would earn and compares that to the implied volatility in the markets today.
For an expected risk of 9.3%, INR offers an impressive 7.5% deposit rate for 2016, higher than any other currency with a similar risk level.
The rupee for the moment looks to be the most optimized currency investment for 2016 in the EM world.
Factors Affecting the Rupee in 2016
The Federal Reserve's (Fed) rate hike and the Chinese slowdown have caused some investors to flee from riskier assets, especially emerging market equities. Both of these factors put some downward pressure on the rupee.
However, as the third-largest importer of crude oil, with every $1 drop in 2015 in crude oil prices, India saves more than half a billion dollars in its imports.2 Thus, cheaper commodities, especially crude oil, are a windfall for the fiscal health of the rupee.
Considering those two opposing forces, we expect the rupee to be fairly stable over the course of the next year. A 2% to 3% further depreciation could not be ruled out; however, in an otherwise challenging landscape this would be a good performance. Furthermore, any depreciation should not offset interest income available, as has been discussed above.
It is also important to keep in mind that any relative strength in the rupee could be very supportive of the performance of Indian equities in the emerging market universe.
Learn about the WisdomTree Indian Rupee Strategy Fund (NYSEARCA:ICN), which invests in forward contracts, collecting the short-term interest rates embedded in those contracts, as discussed in the analysis and charts above.
Unless otherwise noted, data source is Bloomberg, as of February 11th, 2016.
- Bloomberg, for the period 12/31/14 to 12/31/15.
- ICRA, a Moody's Investors Service company, as of November 2015.
Important Risks Related to this Article
There are risks associated with investing, including possible loss of principal. Foreign investing involves special risks, such as risk of loss from currency fluctuation or political or economic uncertainty. This Fund focuses its investments in India, thereby increasing the impact of events and developments associated with the region, which can adversely affect performance. Investments in emerging or frontier markets are generally less liquid and less efficient than investments in developed markets and are subject to additional risks, such as risks of adverse governmental regulation and intervention or political developments. Investments in commodities may be affected by overall market movements, changes in interest rates and other factors such as weather, disease, embargoes and international economic and political developments.
Investments in currency involve additional special risks, such as credit risk and interest rate fluctuations. Derivative investments can be volatile, and these investments may be less liquid than other securities, and more sensitive to the effects of varied economic conditions. As this Fund can have a high concentration in some issuers, the Fund can be adversely impacted by changes affecting those issuers. Unlike typical exchange-traded funds, there are no indexes that the Fund attempts to track or replicate. Thus, the ability of the Fund to achieve its objectives will depend on the effectiveness of the portfolio manager. Due to the investment strategy of this Fund, it may make higher capital gain distributions than other ETFs. Please read the Fund's prospectus for specific details regarding the Fund's risk profile.
Gaurav Sinha, Asset Allocation Strategist
Gaurav Sinha is currently working as Asset Allocation Strategist at WisdomTree since November 2014. He is leading the Portfolio Analytics and Solutions team and builds specialized investment solutions along with customized analytics for our clients. He is also deeply involved in advancing WisdomTree's product suite, and has particular expertise on India. Gaurav came to WidomTree after stints at World Bank, Morgan Stanley and recently with Windhaven Investment Management. He received his Masters in Financial Engineering from Columbia University in 2009 and holds a bachelors Engineering degree from the prestigious Indian Institute Of Technology (IIT).