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'You feel numb': India's markets keep rising as traders
cope with Covid-19
Booming markets have left industry swamped with work at a time when many employees have been
sickened by the virus.
As Covid-19 continues to ravage India, financial professionals across the country are grappling with an
increasingly surreal disconnect between the epidemic’s devastation and a record-breaking boom in local markets.
The world’s worst coronavirus outbreak has battered India’s economy and lifted its official Covid death toll to more
than 315,000 -- a figure that experts say is likely a significant undercount.
And yet investors continue to snap up Indian assets, fueling a 65% rally in the Nifty 50 Index over the past 12
months that has outpaced every other major equity benchmark worldwide. The measure’s surge to a record on
Thursday has coincided with the fastest rate of Indian initial public offerings since 2017 and an unprecedented
flood of foreign-currency bond issuance by local companies.
While the combination of pandemic pain and financial-market euphoria is hardly unique to India, nowhere else has
the contrast been so extreme.
Bulls say the gains are justified by central bank stimulus at home and abroad, along with signs that the current
virus wave may be peaking and optimism that India’s long-term economic growth potential will emerge from the
crisis intact. Skeptics point to overly rosy earnings estimates and the risk of further outbreaks in a country where
vaccination rates remain stubbornly low. India’s central bank weighed in on Thursday, warning in its annual report
that the surge in stocks “poses the risk of a bubble.”
What’s clear is that financiers on all sides of the debate are stretched thin. Booming markets have left the industry
swamped with work at a time when many employees have been sickened by the virus. Some have had to franticly
search for medical help after hospitals were overrun and oxygen supplies fell short. Almost everyone has at least
one friend or family membe