US tech stock mania draws investors from India

Bloomberg July 21 | Updated on July 21, 2020

Robinhood-like trading apps have made it easier to punt on overseas stocks within days of signing up

The record-shattering run in US technology stocks has captivated mom-and-pop investors across America. Now their counterparts in India are piling in too.

Spurred on by a spate of Indian brokerages offering new low-fee trading plans and the ability to buy fractional shares overseas, local amateur investors are snapping up names like Netflix Inc, Inc and Facebook Inc.

Vested Finance Inc, which helps Indians buy and sell offshore stocks and exchange-traded funds, said it received $5 million in investor deposits in the June quarter, up 50 per cent from the previous three-month period.

The underlying focus for a lot of them is to invest in brands that they have been using, especially the technology brands listed in the US, said Viram Shah, the brokerage’s chief executive officer.

Individual investors around the world have gravitated toward the stock market during pandemic lockdowns, driving a surge in new trading accounts. In India, the rush for US equities reflects demand for technology giants that have proven more resilient to the virus-induced turmoil that have engulfed the South Asian nations’ financial companies. Robinhood-like trading apps have made it easier than ever for Indians to punt on overseas stocks within days of signing up.

While the S&P BSE Sensex has rebounded more than 40 per cent from its March low, the gauge remains in the red for the year. By comparison, the Nasdaq-100 has rallied over 25 per cent in 2020 and reached a fresh record on Monday.

Millennials’ choice

Millennials have a lot of disposable income and they understand companies like Netflix or Google better than the Reliance or Tatas of the world, said Vinay Bharathwaj, co-founder and managing director at Stockal, another platform that allows individuals in emerging markets to invest in US equities.

India allows an individual to remit up to $250,000 overseas, but the policy has been underutilised for investment purposes mainly due to the lack of convenient platforms for transactions. That’s changing as new systems have made it easier to open accounts to trade abroad. At Vested Finance, it takes between two and four days to open an account, according to Shah.

The growing appetite for overseas stocks has also attracted some of India’s biggest financial firms. HDFC Securities Ltd tied up with Stockal and DriveWealth LLC in December to offer international equity trading. The service now has 30,000 clients with an average order size of $9,000 for US-listed companies.

In a digital world, physical boundaries and geographies dont matter, said Nandkishore Purohit, head of digital and distribution at HDFC Securities. Given a choice, money will move from one asset class to another and from one geography to another in search of returns.

Published on July 21, 2020

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