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Mukesh richest in world, man next door not too poor either

Oct. 29: The sensex smashed the 20000-point barrier today in another gravity-defying surge in stock values that turned Mukesh Ambani into the world’s richest person with his wealth estimated at $63.2 billion (Rs 249,108 crore).

Ambani pulled ahead of Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim Helu and Microsoft founder Bill Gates as the value of his stake in refinery-to-textiles giant Reliance Industries and two other group companies swelled.

The index closed a historic day of trading at 19977.97 points, just off the high of 20024.87, recording a 3.82 per cent gain over Friday’s close. The surge was fuelled by foreign money which continued to pour into the economy a day before a crucial review of the monetary policy by the Reserve Bank of India.

The sensex has scaled an unprecedented six peaks this year — three of them this month — indicating that this is payback time in the world’s best-known Goldilocks economy, “which is neither too hot nor too cold” and continues to hold out the promise of better returns. Its index twin, the Nifty, also surged to a new high of 5905.90.

The sensex has risen almost 40 per cent this year after foreign investors pumped $17 billion into Indian equities since January. Like Ambani, retail investors who were brave enough to venture into the stock markets are riding the crest this year and have seen the combined value of their investments swell to over Rs 5 trillion, roughly 8 per cent of the market’s overall valuation of Rs 62 trillion.

But a larger question hung over the market: should retail investors who have sat on the sidelines till now wade into this bull market'

The pundits are divided on this question. Arun Kejriwal, director of KRIS, a brokerage, said timid investors had better stay out. “They must wait for the market to consolidate,” he said even as he argued that retail investors had not made much money in this bull run.

Seshadri Bharathan, director, stockbroking firm Dawnay Day AV Securities Pvt Ltd, contests Kejriwal’s view. “They have also benefited,” he said.

Where is this market headed and will the sensex scale its seventh peak before the year runs out' Very few are ready to hazard a guess. Anil Kaul, head of ICICIdirect.com, said there was still some steam left in the markets. “We had predicted 20000 in early September this year and our view is that it should be 23000 by early next year. I would urge investors to book profits at those levels,” Kaul said.

One big factor in India’s favour is that other emerging markets like China, for instance, have run up so sharply in the past year that many overseas investors have started taking money off the table. With India Inc expected to report robust earnings this year, the markets ought to rise further.

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