Understanding the pros and cons of Investing in Foreign Stocks: Indian investors have always been known to be inward-looking. That is, they would prefer to invest in the Indian markets over foreign ones. This has been the case even though it’s been over 15 years since they were first permitted to invest in foreign equities.
One of the major reasons for this has been the fact that India being a developing nation has an economy that grows faster than many developed countries. Today we discuss the possible benefits that an investor may receive while investing in foreign markets and also the limitations of doing so.
Benefits of Investing in Foreign Stocks /International markets
Generally, when we talk about diversification we generally refer to investing across various industries and different MCAP’s. But by investing in foreign markets we can receive the same benefits of diversification even if the companies that we include in our portfolio already exist in the same industry or MCAP. The main purpose of diversification is to protect the portfolio. By investing abroad the portfolio is safeguarded from any domestic risks that might affect the domestic markets as a whole.
2. Market rebound rate
We earlier mentioned that that Indian investors prefer to invest in Indian securities as they provide a better growth rate. Markets around the world at times undergo crises at the same time. Rare as this should be this has already occurred twice post 2000. Keeping the growth rate aside let us try and notice the performance of markets post such crisis.
The Recession of 2008 saw economies stagnating all around the world. Even though they were first triggered by problems in the US, the Indian economy too suffered from the crash. The Indian markets suffered a fall of 55% compared to the heights it touched at the end of 2007. It can be noticed that the period of December 2007 to December 2013 the Indian markets gained only 4.3% after rebounding. Let us compare this to the US markets. During the recession, the US markets fell by about 50%. But during the same period from December 2007 to December 2013, the US market provided close to 50% returns after rebounding to previous levels.
Let us also take the 2nd instance where we have seen markets all around the world contract. This has been due to the pandemic that we are still suffering through. If we notice the US markets since their heights in February we can see that the markets fell 30% by March but have already rebounded and touched new heights gaining 15% returns. The Indian markets, on the other hand, suffered a fall of over 35% and have still not previous levels.
Another added advantage of investing in foreign markets is the exposure an investor will receive in terms of securities available to him. Let us dial back time to the early 2000s and observe the options available to Indian investors when it comes to technology-driven securities. They are limited to TCS, Infosys, and Wipro.
On the other hand, foreign markets provided the likes of Apple. Microsoft, Google. At times even legal jurisdictions bar from certain companies to operate in a country. Investors, however, have the option to simply invest in foreign countries.
Risks involved while Investing in Foreign Stocks
1. Currency Exchange
One of the major problems investors face is due to the changing exchange rates. International stocks are priced in the currency of the country they are based in. For an Indian investor, this causes is a problem because he is now not only exposed to the uncertainty of the stock but also the uncertainty of the currency.
Take for example the shares of ABC Ltd. in the US are worth $100. After the purchase is made the stock rises to $110. But at the same time, the dollar weakens by 15%. If a domestic investor sells off his position and converts it to rupees he would not only forgo the 10% gain but also suffer an additional 5% loss due to the exchange rate. But with the added risk there also exists the added opportunity of making gains during the exchange. If the rupee weakens in the above case, the investor would walk away with a 25% gain.
The gains that an individual makes from foreign investments can be taxed twice. First when the shares are sold in a foreign country. And secondly in India. This, however, depends on whether the individual is considered as a resident or any other status. The rates applicable here will depend on whether the gains are considered as Long term capital gain or Short term capital gain depending on the period the asset was held. This is known as Double taxation.
This can be avoided if there exists a tax agreement between the foreign country and India. This tax agreement is known as the Double Tax Avoidance Agreement. India currently has DTAA with more than 80 countries, including the US, the UK, France, Greece, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Israel, Italy, Mauritius, Thailand, Spain, Malaysia, Russia, China, Bangladesh, and Australia.
3. Political Unrest
When investing in a foreign country the investor must be aware of the potential political risk. This makes it necessary that the investors follow up on major political events such as elections, trade agreements, tax changes, and civil unrest. A country with unfavorable factors makes investing there not worthwhile even if the company is a good performer.
4. Lack of regulation
Investors looking to invest in foreign markets must be aware that foreign governments may not have the same level of regulations that are followed in India. They may have different disclosure and accounting rules followed respectively. This makes it harder and time-consuming for investors to keep up with the inconsistencies that of regulations in different countries.
There exist numerous advantages and risks that exist while investing in foreign stocks. The existence of risks does not mean one should turn a blind eye to over half of the investment opportunities available to an investor. This is because a majority of such opportunities exist in foreign markets.
Investors should, however, pick an opportunity where the risks are considered and assessed and still remains attractive as an investment.