FPIs pull out record ₹1.1 lakh crore in March amidst COVID-19 mayhem

Growth slipped to 4.5 per cent in the July-September quarter. Photo: iStock

Foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) have net withdrawn a record ₹1.1 lakh crore from the Indian markets in March as the coronavirus pandemic dented investor sentiment worldwide.

According to latest depositories data, FPIs pulled out a net ₹61,973 crore from equities and ₹56,211 crore from the bond market in March, taking the cumulative net outflow to ₹1,18,184 crore. The outflow of funds in March comes after six consecutive months of investment by FPIs since September 2019. This is also the highest withdrawal ever since the FPI data has been made available by the National Securities Depository Ltd.

A foreign portfolio investment is a grouping of assets such as stocks, bonds, and cash equivalents. Portfolio investments are held directly by an investor or managed by financial professionals.

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Besides, in just two trading sessions of April, FPIs have withdrawn a net sum of ₹6,735 crore from the domestic markets. Out of this, ₹3,802 crore were pulled out from equities and ₹2,933 crore from the debt segment. “The sell-off in March is mostly driven by quant funds, hedge funds, and risk parity funds,” Harsh Jain, co-founder and COO at Groww said.

Terming the fund outflow as “unparalleled”,  Himanshu Srivastava, senior analyst manager research, Morningstar India, said that with fear over the degree of impact that COVID-19 could leave on the global economy, foreign investors stormed out of the emerging markets, with India among the worst hit.

“The intensity of the situation could be gauged from the fact that even during the financial crisis of 2008, FPIs sold net assets worth USD 9.3 billion in the Indian markets while in March 2020, they have been net sellers to the tune of USD 16.5 billion,” he added.

Regarding the future of FPI flows, Srivastava said these are unprecedented scenarios and with risk-taking going off the table, emerging markets like India may most likely witness a prolonged period of net outflows till the time situation on the coronavirus front stabilizes.

Jain said, “RBI raised the limit FPIs can invest in corporate bonds to 15 per cent on March 30th. While this is encouraging, it is unlikely to drive investments immediately. The governments plan for easing out the lockdown after 15th April and other boosts like economic aid is crucial at this point in time.”

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