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The large-cap information technology (IT) stocks rallied on Tuesday on the back of a rating upgrade by global brokerage Morgan Stanley. Shares of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys and Wipro gained around four per cent each after the brokerage revised upwards their price targets between five per cent and 26 per cent. “The Indian IT services stocks could be set for a turnaround in 2018,” said Morgan Stanley analysts Parag Gupta and Gaurav Rateria in a note on Monday. “Valuations are at or below long-term averages and an improving global macro could spur tech spending, which could re-rate stocks,” the duo said, adding they prefer large-caps. Shares of mid-cap IT stocks underperformed, with Mphasis, Cyient and Mindtree ending in red. The benchmark BSE Sensex was down 72.5 points, or 0.2 per cent, even as TCS, Infosys and Wipro together made a 158-point contribution. The BSE IT index gained 3.3 per cent and was by far the best-performing sectoral index. graph The technology pack has been underperforming the market in the past few years amid slowing growth and regulatory concerns. Last year, the BSE IT index gained only 11 per cent even as the Sensex rallied 28 per cent. “IT underperformed the Sensex in 2017 as revenue growth was tepid, while investment in the business and a strong rupee kept margins in check. While management commentary on deal pipelines and spending intentions were upbeat through most of 2017, it did not translate into deal wins and growth, thus impacting the sentiment and stock performance,” Morgan Stanley said. The brokerage said its recent proprietary global survey of chief investment officers pointed towards an acceleration in IT services growth spends. “The European geography has been strong and North America is likely to pick up in mid-2018, as banking clients start to spend. Digital deals have started bulking up (from a few million dollars to $40-50 million) and adoption is deepening, which could improve revenue growth rates and visibility,” the note said. Market players said the Morgan Stanley note and the weakening of the rupee helped improve sentiment towards the IT stocks, which have been laggards over three years.
Also, technology shares could outperform the market if returns taper off following a stellar year, they added.“We believe a turnaround in IT spending is imminent, which could quickly turn sentiment on these stocks. While structurally the sector faces risks from automation and a slower pace of market share gains from global vendors, we believe a cyclical rally could be in the offing,” the note said. Morgan Stanley upgraded Infosys, Tech Mahindra and HCL Technologies to ‘overweight’ from ‘equal weight’. It upgraded TCS to ‘equal weight’, from ‘underweight’ and remained ‘underweight’ on Wipro. In terms of price targets, Infosys and Tech Mahindra could see the highest upside from the current levels. The brokerage says valuations for these three companies are below their long-term averages. TCS, it said, was trading at a premium to peers, with a valuation of 19 times its estimated earnings for the next financial year (FY19). Morgan Stanley said its bullish projections for the IT pack could go wrong if there is a “push out” in tech spends or if there is an appreciation in the rupee or renewed concerns on regulations, especially the US visas or new tax laws.