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For many, it's going to be a bad Diwali

By Palak Shah & Anirudh Laskar in Mumbai
October 11, 2008 13:15 IST
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Small investors are despondent -- and angry at brokers for shorting the markets.

Time: 12:30 pm. Venue: The Bombay Stock Exchange.

A large number of investors are intently watching the giant television screen outside the BSE building on Dalal Street, hoping against hope that the benchmark Sensex would turn northwards.

Instead, the numbers flashing on the big screen showed that the index was down 888 points. Within minutes, it slipped 1,043 points.

"Mari gayo. Diwali kharab che," (Oh my god. It's going to be a bad Diwali ), businessman Jayesh Mehta muttered.

He was particularly upset because he bought ICICI Bank shares just last week – and the share lost a staggering 20 per cent today, the biggest loser in the whole of Asia.

"The share has lost so much today that I do not see any chance of recovering my investment soon," he rued. Mehta blames traders who are short selling in the market. Mehta is a seasoned player. Others like Vijay Pandey, a 35-year old resident of Malad who entered the market only five years ago, the last month has been worse than he ever imagined.

In January, Pandey's portfolio stood at Rs 24 lakhs (Rs 2.4 million). Now it has dwindled to Rs 500,000. And he fears the worst.

"It looks as if the index will reach 6,000, which is where it was in 2003 when the United Progressive Alliance came to power."

A purchase manager in a shipping company, Pandey has promised to stay away from the stock market for the rest of his life. Like Pandey, there are many retail investors who are going through this rough transition -- from unprecedented highs to unbelievable lows.

Much of their ire, though, is directed at the broker community. The reason: many feel that brokers are able to make money in both bear and bull runs, whereas retail investors suffer.

As the situation stands now, most retail investors lack the money to keep buying. "My broker keeps advising me to buy on lows because of cost averaging, but where is the money now to even do that," said a frustrated investor.

The mood is sombre at the brokerage houses too. "Clients are in no mood to buy, even though shares are being traded below their fair value. And even if someone is willing to do so, brokerages are asking for a cheque first," said a manager in a brokerage house.

According to Ambareesh Baliga, vice-president - private client group, Karvy Stock Broking, the question is not about liquidity, but sheer lack of confidence.

As S M Shetty, investor, said, "Whenever the market recovers a little, I will take out my entire investment and put them in fixed deposits and saving schemes."

That statement, in fact, just about sums up the mood.

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Palak Shah & Anirudh Laskar in Mumbai
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