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Fund Managers Favor China Over India: BofA Merrill Lynch

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- BofA Merrill Lynch conducted an August survey of 187 global fund managers. In the survey, managers who are attracted to the Asia-Pacific are underweight on India despite narrowing their bearish view slightly in August. The report says that India is among the most expensive markets in the world. China, on the other hand, is more reasonable on equity valuations. In addition, among the broader emerging markets, Russia and Turkey are the most favored destinations for global fund managers' investments.

A few ETFs relevant to India, Russia and Turkey are WisdomTree India Earnings Fund (EPI), MSCI India Total Return Index (INP), Market Vector Russia ETF Trust (RSX) and iShares MSCI Turkey Index (TUR).

Some of the ETFs relevant to China are iShares FTSE/Xinhua China 25 Index Fund (FXI), SPDR S&P China ETF (GXC) and Power Shares Golden Dragon Halter USX China Portfolio (PGJ).

Currently the Shanghai SE Composite Index and India's BSE 30-Share Sensex Index are trading at price-to-earnings multiples of 19.29 and 17.91, respectively. Analysts at BofA Merrill Lynch believe that India has reached its optimized level and that China is the market that will outperform in the second half of the year as equity valuations are seen as more reasonable in China than in India.

BofA Merrill Lynch analysts' EPS estimates for the BSE 30-Share Sensex in the current financial year range between INR 950 and INR 1,050, which translates to forward P/E multiples of 17-19 times, near historical highs. Although Indian mid-cap stocks have fared well, the benchmark indices have been stuck in a narrow range over the past six months.

India's benchmark Sensex Index, lingering around its 31-month high, has gained 5.37% year to date, while China's Shanghai Composite Index and Brazil's Bovespa Index have lost 19.37% and 2.48%, respectively, during this same period. BofA Merrill Lynch expects India's benchmark index to consolidate at 18,000 levels by year-end from the current level of 18,455.

Brazil and Mexico are the fund managers' favorites among the Latin American countries. iShares MSCI Brazil Index (EWZ), Market Vectors Brazil Small-Cap ETF (BRF), and iShares MSCI Mexico Investable Market Index (EWW) are a few ETFs to consider to get exposure in Brazil and Mexico.

Among Asian countries, Indonesia and Thailand are the fund managers favorites. Market Vectors Indonesia Index (IDX) and iShares MSCI Thailand Invest Market Index (THD) offer investment opportunities for U.S. investors in these countries.

Investors are underweight both India and China, but prefer China. Despite the underweight rating on China, global fund managers seem to be banking on the Chinese economy mainly due to the recent positivity about the economy surpassing Japan to become the world's second-largest economy. The survey indicates that fund managers are also underweight on Taiwan and Malaysia.

The survey revealed that while the majority are underweight China, a net 38% of the respondents are overweight Global Emerging Markets (GEM) as compared to 34% in July, while a net 39% of emerging market investors believe that global liquidity and domestic demand will be the most important drivers of emerging market equity prices.

Fund managers seemed less bearish in the global economy as compared to June and July, the report said. A marginal 5% of investors predicted a stronger global growth in the next 12 months and 78% of respondents did not expect a double-dip recession as forecast by many analysts.

On the other hand, the recent weakness in U.S. economic data has left almost 78% believing that U.S. demand would be the least important driver in global economic growth. This figure is up from 40% recorded in July and also the worst ever since April 2009.

Karvy Global Services (www.karvyglobal.com), a subsidiary of the Karvy group (www.karvy.com), provides specialized research in asset classes including stocks, mutual funds and insurance to leading Wall Street firms.

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