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The shift in RBI’s stance came, but not in the repo rate as most people were expecting today.The Monetary Policy Committee ( MPC) decided to change the stance from neutral to “calibrated tightening” of monetary policy, which in plain English means that rate cuts are probably off the table, and RBI can decide on when to raise or not raise rates depending on how fresh data comes in.

Whilst a 0.25% hike in the repo rate was the consensus view of the expected MPC action today, with some even expecting a 0.5% hike, the policy statement surprised markets – bonds positively, equities and the rupee negatively, with RBI choosing to do nothing, as MPC members voted 5:1 in favor of an unchanged repo rate at 6.50%. This was also probably driven by the fact that there have been two consecutive rate hikes in the last two MPC meetings.

They stuck with their primary mandate i.e. controlling inflation, with the objective to achieve medium term target for CPI inflation of 4 percent within the range of +/- 2%, while supporting growth.

Since the last MPC meet in August 2018, the Indian basket of crude oil has increased sharply by US$ 13 a barrel, whilst global economic activity has been able to withstand ongoing trade tensions thus far. Food inflation has remained unusually weak, which imparts a downward bias to its trajectory in the second half of the year. The risk to the food inflation from a 9% deficit in the monsoon, is also probably mitigated by higher production of major kharif crops for 2018-19 than last year’s record. An estimate of the impact of an increase in minimum support prices (MSPs) announced in July has been factored in the baseline projections.

The projected inflation in Q2:2018-19 is at 4%, 3.9%-4.5% in the second half and 4.8% in Q1:2019-20 with risks on the upside, which were lower than earlier estimates.

With risks broadly balanced GDP growth projection for 2018-2019 was lowered at 7.4% against 7.5 % in August due to strong base effect.Private consumption has remained strong and is likely to be sustained even as the recent rise in oil prices may have a bearing on disposable incomes. However, both global and domestic financial conditions have tightened, which may dampen investment activity. Rising crude oil prices and other input costs may also drag down investment activity by denting profit margins of corporates. This adverse impact will be alleviated to the extent corporates are able to pass on increases in their input costs. Uncertainty surrounds the outlook for exports. The recent rupee depreciating could be negated by slowing down of global trade and the escalating tariff wars.

Global headwinds in the form of escalating trade tensions, volatile and rising oil prices, and tightening of global financial conditions therefore pose substantial risks to the growth and inflation outlook.

Your Investments

As we see change in stance from neutral to calibrating tightening signals that rate cuts are off the table. Concerns seem to be around crude oil prices, global interest rates and the ongoing global developments on the trade front. Equities continue to trade at a premium and whilst it may be very tempting to buy lumpsums as equities have fallen substantially, equity valuations in India continue to be elevated vis a vis long term averages. A gradual entry strategy or a continued SIP/STP strategy is most suited to the current market scenario. It may be a good idea to add fixed income exposure through a combination of largely ultra short term, short and medium term strategies focused on high credit quality portfolios, to avoid any spillover of the continuing bad loan cycle on your investments.

Your Loans

After hiking the repo rate twice in a row, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has kept the key policy rates unchanged. However, the central bank has changed its stance on the key policy rates to ‘calibrated tightening’. This indicates that RBI is of the view that there is upward pressure on interest rates which means your EMIs are likely to continue ti go up. Expect banks to raise rates gradually even though RBI kept rates constant today.

Way forward

The next policy is due on December 5, but don’t be surprised for mid course corrections if the data so warrants. Ultimately that’s what caliberated tightening probably alludes to.

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Today marked the 3rd Bi-Monthly policy statement by the RBI for the FY 2018-19 with members voting 5-1 in favor of a rate hike.

This was largely in line with market expectations and was already priced in, as post the release of the minutes of the monetary policy bond yields did not move much in either direction.

However, the MPC also continued to maintain a neutral stance, indicating that it is trying to play a delicate balance between inflation and growth, and decisions are being taken with the objective of achieving the medium term target for CPI at 4% within the range of +/- 2% and future data prints

The MPC mentioned that domestically various indicators suggest that economic activity has continued to be strong. Significant turn around in the production of capital goods and consumer durables, Progressive monsoon and increase in MSPs of Kharif crops are expected to boost rural demand by rising farmer’s income. Vehicle sales augur well for urban income growth.

Retail inflation i.e. CPI grew to 5% in June from 4.9% in May, driven by an uptick in inflation in fuel. Food inflation remained muted due to lower than usual seasonal uptick in prices of fruits and vegetables in summer months. Adjusting for the estimated impact of the 7th central pay commission’s house rent allowances (HRA), headline inflation increased from 4.5 per cent in May to 4.6 per cent in June. Low inflation continued in cereals, meat, milk, oil, spices and non-alcoholic beverages, and pulses and sugar prices remained in deflation. Factors mentioned above have resulted marginally downward revision in inflation projections for Q2 vis-à-vis the June statement. However, projections for Q3 onwards remain broadly unchanged on account of uptick of 20 bps in inflation expectation for 3 months and 1 year ahead horizon survey of households by RBI’s. RBI’s industrial outlook survey also reported higher input costs and selling prices in Quarter 1 of 2018-19. Input cost of companies polled in services PMI in June also stayed elevated. Farm and non farm input costs rose significantly in June.

The central government has decided to fix the minimum support prices (MSPs) of at least 150 per cent of the cost of production for all kharif crops for the sowing season of 2018-19. This increase in MSPs for kharif crops, which is much larger than the average increase seen in the past few years, will have a direct impact on food inflation and possible secondary impacts on headline inflation. Uncertainty around the full impact of MSP on inflation will only resolve in the next several months once the price support schemes are implemented and procurement by the government is visible.

Based on an assessment of the above-mentioned factors, inflation is projected at 4.6 per cent in Q2, 4.8 per cent in H2 of 2018-19 and 5.0 per cent in Q1:2019-20, with risks evenly balanced. Excluding the HRA impact, CPI inflation is projected at 4.4 per cent in Q2, 4.7-4.8 per cent in H2 and 5.0 per cent in Q1:2019-20.

The MPC notes that domestic economic activity has continued to sustain momentum and the output gap has virtually closed. However, uncertainty around domestic inflation needs to be carefully monitored in the coming months. In addition, recent global developments raise some concerns. Rising trade protectionism poses a grave risk to near-term and long-term global growth prospects by adversely impacting investment, disrupting global supply chains and hampering productivity. Geopolitical tensions and elevated oil prices continue to be the other sources of risk to global growth. On account of these risks, RBI governor stated that by keeping the neutral stance, the Monetary Policy Committee have kept the option of further rate increase or decrease open and dependent on future data.

With an election year upon us and possible fiscal risks emanating, along with global outflows on the back of higher US interest rates and a falling rupee, this may not be the last of the rate hikes in our view.

Your Investments

Financial markets have continued to be volatile and driven mainly by monetary policy stances in advanced and emerging economies and geopolitical tensions. Globally, equity markets have been volatile on trade tensions and uncertainty around Brexit negotiations. However, it also important that public finances do not crowd out private sector investment activity at this crucial juncture.

Capital flows to Emerging Economies declined in anticipation of monetary policy tightening in Advanced Economies. Also currency of Emerging economies have depreciated against the US dollar over the last month on account of strong USD supported by strong economic data.

Equities continue to remain overpriced from a price to earnings perspective in spite of recent corrections and a better growth outlook. However, good results so far by many companies, along with good growth expectations and better capacity utilisation bode well for earnings growth going forward.

Real rates continue to remain positive.The rising G-sec yield makes dynamic bonds and long term bond funds unattractive and the exposure to the same should be minimized. Bonds with a shorter duration of 3 months to 2 years are ideal in the given scenario. We therefore, continue to believe that investors should continue to have fixed income exposure through a combination of lower duration and short term strategies.

Your Loans

With an increase of 25 basis points by the RBI, the deposit rate of the banks could further increase which would be followed by lending rate hikes. Thus we suggest looking at prepaying or raising EMI amounts on your loans to negate the interest rate hike and future hikes that could follow.

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Today marked the second and much awaited Bi-Monthly policy statement by the RBI for the new FY 2018-19.

In line with what bond markets expected, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) delivered a 6-0 verdict on an interest rate hike by 0.25%. The was largely in line with market expectations post the release of the minutes of the last meeting and thus the bond market had only a marginal impact of this change.

However, the MPC also continued to maintain a neutral stance, indicating that it is trying to play a delicate balance between inflation and growth, and decisions are being taken basis news flow and fresh data coming in.

The MPC noted that domestic economic activity has exhibited a sustained revival in recent quarters and the output gap has almost closed. Investment activity, in particular, is recovering well and could receive a further boost from swift resolution of distressed sectors of the economy under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. This is in general good news for the economy.

Retail inflation i.e. CPI grew to 4.6% in April. The decision to raise rates is therefore in line with the objective of keeping the medium term inflation at 4% i.e. well within the 2-6% range.

Since the MPC’s meeting in early April, the price of Indian basket of crude surged from US$ 66 a barrel to US$ 74. This, along with an increase in other global commodity prices and recent global financial market developments, has resulted in a firming up of input cost pressure thus persisting in a high CPI inflation projection for 2018-19. On the other hand the summer momentum in vegetable prices was weaker than the usual pattern softening the food inflation in the short term, though this has been more than negated by the changes in oil prices. Household inflation expectations have also moved up sharply and  pricing power seems to be on its way up as well.

Taking these effects into account, the projected CPI inflation for 2018-19 is revised to 4.8-4.9 per cent in H1 and 4.7 per cent in H2, including the HRA impact. Excluding the impact of HRA revisions, CPI inflation is projected at 4.6 per cent in H1 and 4.7 per cent in H2.

Crude oil prices have been volatile recently and since consumption, both rural and urban, remains healthy and is expected to strengthen further, all this imparts considerable uncertainty to the inflation outlook, possibly on the upside. With an election year upon us and possible fiscal risks emanating, along with global outflows on the back of higher US interest rates and a falling rupee, this may not be the last of the rate hikes in our view.

Your Investments

Geo-political risks, global financial market volatility and the threat of trade protectionism pose headwinds to the domestic recovery. However, it also important that public finances do not crowd out private sector investment activity at this crucial juncture.

In most Emerging Market Economies (EMEs), bond yields have risen on reduced foreign appetite for their debt due to growing dollar shortage in the global market and on prospects of higher interest rates in Advanced Economies.

Equities continue to remain overpriced from a price to earnings perspective in spite of recent corrections and a better growth outlook. However, signs of improved demand and pricing power for companies, along with good growth expectations and better capacity utilisation,  bode well for earnings growth going forward. Corrections into equities could therefore be bought into.

Real rates continue to remain positive.The rising G-sec yield makes dynamic bonds and long term bond funds unattractive and the exposure to the same should be minimized. Bonds with a shorter duration of 3 months to 2 years are ideal in the given scenario. We therefore, continue to believe that investors should continue to have fixed income exposure through a combination of lower duration and short term strategies.

Your Loans

Even before the RBI meet, the banks had begun hiking both their lending and borrowing rates. This rise in lending rates was brought about by the rapid increase in bond yields and increased loan demand, especially in private banks.

With an increase of 25 basis points by the RBI, the deposit rate of the banks could further increase which would be followed by lending rate hikes. Thus look at prepaying your loans with excess liquidity.

A 6-0 verdict is therefore a clear indicator that inflation targeting continues to be the MPCs primary role, and a conservative stance will probably give foreign investors a more positive view on India.

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Today marked the first Bi-Monthly policy statement by the RBI for the new FY 2018-19.

The MPC notes that there has been a recovery in growth on a domestic level and various structural reforms introduced will support further long term growth. The MPC recognizes the downside risk to private financing and investments as well as growth on both a global and domestic level is brought out by deteriorating public finances and rising trade protectionism.

The MPC stated that the GDP growth is projected to strengthen from 6.6% in 2017-18 to 7.4% in 2018-19 with H1 2018-19 reflecting growth in the range of 7.3-7.4% and 7.3-7.6% in H2 2018-19 supported by revival in investment activity and global demand.

The MPC revised down the CPI for FY 2018-19 to 4.7-5.1% in H1 and 4.4% in H2 (inclusive of the HRA impact) keeping in mind that factors such as the revised formula for MSP (minimum support price), impact of HRA, further fiscal slippages, a weak monsoon and volatile crude prices could all pose upward risks to the near term inflation outlook.

Amongst the midst of global and local market volatility in both the equity and bond markets, the monetary policy committee maintained their neutral stance and kept the policy repo rate and the reverse repo rate unchanged at 6 percent and 5.75 percent respectively.

5 out of 6 members voted in favor of the policy while one member voted for raise in rates by 25 basis points.

The 10 year G-Sec fell sharply from 7.3% levels to 7.12-7.13% indicating that the market is putting to rest any near term rate hikes.

Your Investments

While the RBI does talk about economic recovery as well as a possible sustained long term recovery one can not ignore the volatility brought about by the juxtaposition between global recovery and the possible trade war between the United states of America and China.

Equities continue to remain overpriced from a price to earnings perspective in spite of recent corrections. Real rates continue to remain positive and interest rates (benchmarked by the 10 year G-sec) have cooled down from their high ranges of 7.7-7.8%.

We continue to believe that investors should continue to have fixed income exposure through a combination of accrual, short to medium and hold strategies. Considering a large state loan calendar interest rates could revert back to an upward movement scenario and thus we recommend maintaining only a 10% exposure to dynamic bond fund that have the flexibility to move across bond maturities.

Your Loans

For the first time in 2 years banks started increasing interest rates indicating a change in rate cycle. This rise in lending rates was brought about by the rapid increase in bond yields.

The RBI has maintained status quo on rates and has allowed banks to spread their bond losses over 4 quarters. This action by the RBI could cause lending rates to stabilize.

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RBI has been proven right on its past decisions on interest rates, and in line with consensus views post the Budget, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) decided to keep the repo rate and reverse repo rate unchanged at 6 percent and 5.75 percent,respectively. The MPC also decided to keep the policy stance as neutral, and indicated that further rate hikes or rate cuts will depend on incoming data. It does seem like a long pause on interest rates is in store. The MPC voted 5-1 in favour of status quo, with one member expressing a preference for a rate hike.

Since these were in line with market expectations, both bond and equity markets had already priced in this scenario, and thus they did not react much to this announcement.

The CPI projections for inflation going forward were higher than projected in the last policy, with inflation expected to continue to be elevated at 5.1%p.a in Q4, and 5.1% -5.6% p.a, in H1 2018, due to pressure from higher commodity prices, oil and possible impacts of MSP hikes and increased customs duties, along with greater pricing power for companies to pass on these costs to end consumers.

Growth for 2017-18 is projected at 6.6% ( lower than 6.7% expected earlier) , and projected for 2018-19  at 7.2 %  overall. This recovery is expected on the back of better bank credit growth, an increase in capacity utilisation, GST stabilisation and bank recapitalisation.

Governor Patel ascribed the recent sharp rise in bond yields to various global and domestic factors; including higher US rates, oil prices, increase in inflation, cyclical pick- up in demand in the economy as well as fiscal slippages from the government.

 

Your Investments

With the RBI referring to a recovery in the economy, it does seem that whilst they will continue to track data closely, strategies that are focused on interest rates staying elevated should be the preferred choice.  Considering that real rates of return (returns from fixed return investments less inflation) continue to be significantly positive, we continue to believe that investing in fixed income is attractive, as equities continue to trade at significant premiums to long term price to earnings ratios in spite of the recent correction.  It may be a good idea to continue to have fixed income exposure through a combination of largely accrual, short to medium term, and hold to maturity strategies. Considering the bank recapitalisation, investors could also consider credit opportunities funds for a small portion of their portfolios. For investors willing to continue to look at interest rates having periods of downward volatility, dynamic bond funds that have the flexibility to move across bond maturities, can be explored for 10% – 15% of the fixed income portfolio.

 

Your Loans

Whilst RBI’s decision to hold rate cuts could indicate status quo on rates, we think that the rapid increase in bond yields and its negative impact on bank balance sheets could create upward pressure on loan rates, with banks possibly raising rates going forward.

Reserve Bank introduced the Marginal Cost of Funds based Lending Rates (MCLR) system with effect from April 1, 2016. With the introduction of the MCLR system, it was expected that the existing Base Rate loans shall also migrate to MCLR system. It is observed, however, that a large proportion of bank loans continue to be linked to the Base Rate. Since MCLR has proven to be a better tool to transmit interest rates, RBI has decided to harmonize the methodology of determining benchmark rates by linking the Base Rate to the MCLR with effect from April 1, 2018. This is likely to help borrowers who are still on base rate linked loans.  An ombudsman scheme to improve customer grievance handling for loans taken from NBFCs has also been introduced.

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Inflation concerns mean rates stay as is…

As was broadly expected, The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) on Wednesday left the policy repo rate and reverse repo rate unchanged at 6 percent and 5.75 percent, respectively. Out of six members, five members voted for no rate cut and one member voted for 25 bps rate cut. RBI continued to maintain its view that the 4% target on inflation remains its focus. Retail inflation measured by year-on-year change in the consumer price index (CPI) had recorded a seven-month high in October, and with an indicated range of 4.3% to 4.7% for the next two quarters, along with higher inflationary expectations getting built in through the possibility of higher oil prices and some possible fiscal pressure, this was very much in line with expectations. Surplus liquidity in the system has also continued to decline, reducing chances of rate cuts going forward.

Focus on the real rate of return

With the RBI referring to possible green shoots on growth starting to appear in the economy, it does seem that whilst they will continue to track data closely, strategies that are focussed on interest rates getting reduced are likely to face pressure. However, considering that real rates of return (returns from fixed income investments less inflation) continue to be significantly positive, we continue to believe that investing in fixed income is attractive.

Your Investments

Considering positive real interest rates, and equities continuing to trade at significant premiums to long term price to earnings ratios,  it may be a good idea to continue to have fixed income exposure through a combination of largely accrual, short to medium term, and hold to maturity strategies. For investors willing to continue to look at interest rates heading downwards, dynamic bond funds that have flexibility to move across bond maturities, can be explored for a small portion of the fixed income portfolio.

Your Loans

The RBI’s decision to hold rate cuts could indicate that there is unlikely to be any impact on existing lending rates, especially home and car loans by banks. Whilst the transmission of the rate cuts for bank loans over the last couple of years has only been partial, we believe that interest rates may not head down much more going forward.

Way Forward

Considering that the next policy meeting on Feb 6 and 7 is likely to be post the Union Budget, one will need to track how the government manages its fiscal policy and its focus on growth going forward. Global interest rates headed upwards, will also continue to drive RBI’s decisions on interest rates.

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As was broadly expected, RBI cut policy rates by 0.25%, taking repo rates down to 6%. This was brought about largely due to the annual retail inflation in June to be the slowest for over five years and as expectations for inflation going forward remain at about 4%, a number that RBI seems to be comfortable with. In addition low core inflation, a good monsoon thus far and a reasonably decent GST roll out thus far. They also held the stance as neutral which was expected, considering that too many shifts in policy could impact long term credibility.

The good news is that the 6 member committee decision was not unanimous – four members voted for 25 bps cut, the fifth voted for a 50 bps cut and the last one voted to maintain status quo.  Hence repo rate got reduced from 6.25% to 6%, reverse repo rate from 6% to 5.75% and marginal standing facility (MSF) rate from 6.5% to 6.25%.

Big Image- What does the Monetary Policy mean for RBI monetary stance

Focus on the real rate of return

With interest rates remaining subdued, there is a tendency to want to take greater risk on the portfolio to achieve a higher absolute rate of return. We think that it is critical that investors focus on real rates of return ie the return after inflation on their portfolios. We believe RBI continues to keep its focus on real rates of return at 1.5% – 2%, which makes fixed income attractive at this stage. Avoid higher risk strategies in chasing a higher rate of return in the current environment, as the risk return trade off may not be favorable.

Your Investments

The decision of the MPC is consistent with a neutral stance of monetary policy in consonance with the objective of achieving the medium-term target for consumer price index (CPI) inflation of 4 per cent within a band of +/- 2 per cent, while supporting growth. The neutral stance does not mean that there won’t be any future rate cuts, but it does seem like rate cuts going forward may be slow and investors expecting a repeat of the returns from bonds made over the last few years, are likely to be disappointed, if they have very high expectations.  The bond and equity markets had probably already priced in this 0.25% rate cut and thus they did not react  to this announcement. It may be a good idea to have bond fund exposure being weighted two thirds towards accrual/hold to maturity strategies and one third towards duration/dynamic strategies. With global bond yields in developed markets headed upwards, investors in equities may need to be careful, especially with equity markets priced to perfection.

Your Loans

The RBI decision to cut its policy repo rate to 6 per cent is likely to lead to a further cut in the lending rates, especially home and car loans by banks. New borrowers can expect EMIs to come down and which would also cut down interest outgo over the loan tenure. Banks may come also up with promotional offers till the festival season to attract more customers. Old borrowers under the MCLR would have to wait until the next reset period to get the rate reset as normally rates are reset once in a year. There is also an option for the old borrowers of switching the loan portfolio to another lender. The decision to examine how the shift to MCLR has worked, considering that most loans are still linked to the base rate, would be interesting to watch closely as RBI has set up an expert committee to look into how monetary transmission can be more effective.

Way Forward

With inflation being the focus of the RBI, the factors determining inflation as mentioned in the Monetary Policy include:

(a) The impact on CPI of the implementation of house rent allowances (HRA) under the 7th central pay commission (CPC); could be estimated to have a 1% impact on inflation over the next 12-24 months

(b) The impact of the price revisions withheld ahead of the GST; and

(c) The movement of food and fuel inflation.

Watch out for inflation, the movement of the Indian rupee and how the economic slowdown led by weak manufacturing and cape data, till the next RBI policy on 4th October 2017.

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