In normal markets I don’t sell stocks out of my long-term 50 Stocks Portfolio on changes in market direction. This is definitely a buy-and-hold-ish portfolio.
But these aren’t normal times either for financial markets or economies and today, March 24, I’m selling shares of HDFC Bank (HDB) out of this portfolio. The position shows a 120.66% gain since I initiated it on December 30, 2008. The ADRs are up 8.95% today, as of 2:30 p.m. New York time, along with the rally in the general market on hopes that a coronavirus rescue package will pass the Senate today.
The bank remains my pick for the best bet in the Indian market and I expect that over the long term the company will continue to grow its market share.
Today Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared all of India–1.4 billion people–would observe a three-week lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus. India has just 519 reported cases of coronavirus (with 10 deaths) but the country has done very little testing and health experts believe that the virus has been spreading undetected and that the totals are about to show the same exponential growth as we’ve seen in Italy, Spain, and the United States.
India has already announced a ban on flights, the closure of its railway network and the suspension of interstate bus service. In his speech to the country Modi appealed to citizens not to step out of their homes for the sake of their families, but offered no specifics on how the government would help people meet their basis needs. That led to panic buying at groceries, which will remain open during the lockdown. Less than an hour after his speech, Modi tweeted that there was no need for panic and that authorities would ensure access to food and medicine.
In recent months HDFC Bank has continued aggressive marketing to gain shares, especially in the commercial loan market. That has raised the risk to the bank from the economic slowdown that comes with a lockdown.
The big worries here are India’s immense numbers of poor with very little access to medical care and no financial backup in the event of a job loss, and that India may have begun this lockdown only after the coronavirus has firmly established itself in the country.