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Nomura India fund reaches 400b yen as Japan bets on Modi

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The land of Abenomics is betting on Modinomics.

[MUMBAI] The land of Abenomics is betting on Modinomics.

The demand is so strong that assets of Nomura Holdings's India equity fund quadrupled to almost 400 billion yen (S$4.908 billion) in just the past year. Japanese investors owned US$13 billion of Indian stocks and bonds at the end of June, the most in data going back to 2012, according to India's regulator.

"It's not like we put in any special marketing effort for this fund," said Kazuto Wada, an executive director at Nomura, Japan's largest brokerage.

"Investors are looking at where the growth will be in the medium to long term, without having to worry about short-term swings in the market."

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India's economy is expanding at about seven times the pace of Japan's, buoyed by a burgeoning middle class and more one than million young people joining the labour force every month.

Indian shares have hit multiple records this year amid optimism about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's policies.

"You have an economy that's growing at 7 per cent annually with reforms showing tangible progress," Mr Wada said in an interview.

"Growth in advanced economies is slowing."

India is what money managers have begun to call a "consensus trade", meaning almost every fund is bullish. Global and local funds have pumped about US$16 billion into its stock market this year alone, making the S&P BSE Sensex one of the world's top performers in 2017 and sending the rupee up 5.6 per cent against the US dollar.

For more on Japanese investors' interest in Indian assets, click here The combined assets of three India funds run by Nissay Asset Management have topped 100 billion yen since their launch 2015, said Sundeep Sikka, chief executive officer of Mumbai-based Reliance Nippon Life Asset Management. Nissay is a unit of Nippon Life.

And it's not just Japanese individuals who have the India bug.

For Franklin Templeton's Michael Hasenstab, "unprecedented" structural reforms by Mr Modi and relatively high yields make India a "sweet spot" among emerging markets.

On July 1, India introduced a goods and services levy designed to unify the nation into a common market and widen the tax net.

Bryan Goh, Singapore-based chief investment officer for Bordier & Cie, said India today reminds him of Japan in 2013, after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe swept to power with widespread support for his plans to spur growth.

"India, from a political standpoint, looks very much like when Abe was elected," Mr Goh said.

"You have a popular prime minister who is able to get reforms done, and when you want to do things on a national scale you need the country behind you."

Mr Modi has burnished India's appeal through policy changes aimed at boosting growth, curbing corruption and improving public finances. The country's 10-year bond yields 6.43 per cent, the highest level among major Asian economies, versus just 0.07 per cent in Japan.

"India is the only country among major emerging markets that satisfies all the conditions - a sizable economy, high growth rate and yield, and political stability," said Go Ikeda, a senior fund manager at Mitsubishi UFJ Kokusai Asset Management.

And while the Topix index of Japanese shares has surged 22 per cent in the past year, the Sensex has gained 26 per cent in yen terms. The Indian gauge rose 0.7 per cent to a fresh record on Monday.

Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management is picking smaller stocks to tap India's growth. Its fund, co-managed with Kotak Mahindra Asset Management, boasts a three-year cumulative return of more than 70 per cent, said Taiki Matsuno, a senior fund manager for global investment.

Mr Matsuno says the market could drop if Federal Reserve rate increases spur capital outflows, but he expects any pullback to be temporary, and no reason for the growing legion of Japanese India bulls to get cold feet.

"As long as people don't think the economy will collapse, stocks will bounce back," he said.

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