Business Standard

MFS’ equity buying hits record ~45K cr in March

Robust inflows amid mid, smallcap correction and large block deals

- ABHISHEK KUMAR Mumbai, 2 April

Domestic mutual funds (MFS) injected a record ~45,120 crore into domestic stocks in March, marking their highest ever buying in a month. This surge in domestic fund inflows took place amid a selloff in smallcap and midcap stocks, and the execution of large block trades in blue-chip companies.

The March deployment was more than three times the buying seen in the previous month.

The previous record for monthly inflows from domestic MFS was set during the unpreceden­ted Covid-19 selloff in March 2020, when they had invested a net of nearly ~30,300 crore.

The sharp uptick in MF buying also pushed the overall investment from domestic institutio­nal investors (DIIS), which include insurance firms and pension funds in addition to MFS, to a new high of ~56,300 crore. The previous high was also in March 2020 when they had collective­ly deployed ~55,600 crore.

So far this calendar year (CY24), MFS have made a net equity buying of ~82,500 crore, nearly half of the total deployment during 2023 of ~1.7 trillion.

According to MF executives, there was a surge in inflows during the latter half of March as investors sought to buy the dip. “There was some pick-up in equity fund inflows in the second half of the month, leading to higher deployment in equities,” said D P Singh, deputy MD and joint CEO, SBI Mutual Fund.

Foreign portfolio investors (FPIS) were also net buyers in March, purchasing equities worth ~30,900 crore. Robust inflows from both MFS and FPIS during a single month are uncommon.

However, March saw hectic share sale activity in marquee companies, such as ITC, TCS, and Interglobe Aviation.

Market players suggested that buying large quantities of stocks in these companies from the secondary market distorts prices, providing institutio­nal investors with an opportunit­y to acquire some of these stocks.

MFS deployed nearly ~10,000 crore through block deals, with ICICI Prudential MF alone, buying nearly ~5,000 crore worth of ITC shares through a block deal early in March. The fund house, along with SBI MF and Nippon India MF, deployed over ~1,000 crore in Aster DM Healthcare, as well. SBI MF’S ~860 crore investment in Aavas Financiers was also among the large deals.

MFS’ equity buying is primarily influenced by three factors: Inflows from investors, changes in cash holdings, and shifts in hybrid fund portfolios between asset classes. According to a report from Motilal Oswal, the equity schemes of the top 20 fund houses were holding 5.2 per cent cash at the end of February 2024. Assuming a 5 per cent cash holding across equity MF schemes, total cash with equity fund managers translates to over ~1 trillion.

The equity market witnessed sharp falls in some of the sessions in March, especially in midcap and smallcap stocks. The Nifty Smallcap 100 declined over 1 per cent during six sessions. The index fell more than 5 per cent on March 13. After swinging over 12 per cent in March, the index ended the month down 4.4 per cent, while the Nifty Midcap 100 closed 0.5 per cent lower. The Nifty50 gained 1.6 per cent last month.

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