The benchmark indices posted their best performance in over a decade, in the financial year ended March 31, despite being caught in the throes of the unprecedented Covid19 pandemic. The fiscal year has been a roller-coaster ride for the markets, with the Sensex touching a nadir of 25,639 in March 2020 and rallying relentlessly thereafter to an all-time high of 52,517 on February 16, 2021. For FY21, the Sensex witnessed gains of 75 per cent and the Nifty, 78 per cent.
The rally was primarily driven by strong foreign inflows, riding on accommodative monetary policies by central banks globally and expectations of improved economic fundamentals back home. Foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) pumped in a record $37 billion into equities in the fiscal, going by National Securities Depository Limited data.
Metal stocks posted spectacular gains of 156 per cent during the financial year on account of a rebound in economic activity globally, especially in China. Information technology and auto stocks also made stellar gains of 115.64 per cent and 111.75 per cent respectively during the period.
The stringent Covid19 pandemic-induced lockdown had brought all economic activity to a standstill in March 2020 and tripped the economy into two successive quarters of negative growth. The economy saw a negative growth of 24.4 per cent in the first quarter of the financial year 2020-21 and 7.3 per cent in the second quarter. But the economy turned around in the October-December period, registering a growth of 0.4 per cent, as the spurt in activities following the gradual easing of lockdown measures pulled the economy from the jaws of a technical recession.
Many young Indians took to stocks during the financial year as the pandemic-driven restrictions and job losses fuelled a retail trading boom. Active investor accounts rose by a record 10.4 million in 2020, according to data from the country’s two main depositories.
The market momentum is likely to continue in the next financial year, according to analysts. However, although the economy has bounced back from the double whammy of pandemic and lockdown, the road ahead may be bumpy. A total of 53,480 fresh infections, the highest single-day spike so far this year, has pushed India’s Covid-19 tally to 1,21,49,335, according to the health ministry. Maharashtra, which contributes as much as 14.5 per cent to the country’s overall GDP, accounts for a sizeable number of emerging cases. The Covid-19 pandemic and progress in vaccination efforts will have a major bearing on the economic and market trajectory, going ahead.