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budget2016

 

Reams of paper have probably been dedicated to the Union Budget already, but here is a detailed analysis after going through the fine print in terms of Budget 2016 and its impact on your personal finances.

Your Income

  1. House Rent Allowance change: This has been hitherto a lesser used deduction as it comes with multiple conditions. Section 80GG allows individuals to claim a deduction in respect of house rent paid. The limit has gone up from Rs 24,000 previously to Rs 60,000 subject to following conditions:

a.If the person is either self-employed or salaried but does not receive deduction for       HRA from the employer

b.Does not own a residential property in the city in which he is staying on rent.

c.If the tax payer owns property at any place other than the one mentioned above, he        should not be claiming benefit of the property as self occupied. That property should be deemed to be let out.

To claim this deduction the tax payer has to furnish a declaration in Form 10 BA

The deduction allowed under section 80GG for payment of rent shall be least of the following:

  1. 5,000 per month
  2. Rent paid less 10% of the total income
  3. 25% of the total income of the tax payer for the year.

Your Expenses

  1. Tax collection at Source introduced – TCS of 1% on purchase of luxury cars of value greater than Rs. 10 lakhs and purchase of goods and services in cash exceeding Rs. 2 lakhs is now being levied. This does not change the price of the product but will create a trail of transactions in cash of high values, targeting cash usage.
  2. Increase in service tax – Service tax has been increased by 0.5% on all taxable services, with effect from 1 June 2016. As a result, expect the costs of all services to go up.
  3. Infrastructure cess- 1% on small petrol, LPG, CNG cars, 2.5% on diesel cars and 4% on high engine capacity vehicles and SUVs, will mean that cars will become more expensive.
  4. Excise duty on branded ready made garments – garments with a retail price of Rs. 1000 and above has changed from Nil to 2% without input tax credit. Thus, expect garments to become a wee bit more expensive.
  5. Excise duty on tobacco hiked – expect cigarettes to be more expensive as a result.

Your Investments

  1. Long Term Capital Gains tax on equities and debt investments did not see any change – This is positive for investors, as there were fears around tax being introduced on equities or the holding period for equities being changed. Status quo is good news.
  2. New Pension Scheme (NPS) – There are 3 types of withdrawals currently allowed under the NPS.
  3. Normal Superannuation – Lump sum withdrawal on retirement, which was 60% earlier has been changed to 40% now. Earlier this withdrawal was taxable. Now the government has proposed withdrawal upto 40% to be tax free. The balance 60% can be used  for purchasing annuities, to make the annuity portion tax free as well. Thus, the NPS is far more attractive as an instrument to be used for your retirement goals now, especially as its ability to permit equity exposure enables you to get the wealth creation benefit of equities over the long term.
  4. Upon death- The entire 100% would be paid to the nominee/ legal heir and there won’t be any purchase of annuity. These entire 100% proceeds are tax free.
  5. Exit before normal superannuation( 60 years) – At least 80% of the acculturated pension wealth of the subscriber should be utilized for purchase of an annuity and remaining 20% can be withdrawn as lump sum. Considering that this is a long term retirement product, be sure to use the NPS to fund your retirement goals, as early withdrawals make it less flexible.
  6. Other pension products like EPF and superannuation – There has been an attempt to bring all pension products on the same page in terms of taxation. Therefore, EPF and superannuation will also permit 40% of the corpus withdrawn to be tax free. The interest earned on the balance 60% of the contributions made post April 1, 2016 will be subject to tax unless it is used to purchase an annuity.

There is also proposed a monetary limit for contribution of employers to a recognized Provident and superannuation fund of Rs. 1.50 Lakh per annum or 12% of employer contribution, whichever is less, beyond which the same will be taxable in the hand of the employee. You could see smaller contributions towards the EPF from employers going forward as a result, and voluntary Provident Fund contributions could also reduce as a result.

  1. REITS (Real Estate Investment Trusts) and InvITs ( Infrastructure Investment Trust) – Real Estate Investment trusts are listed entities that primarily invest in leased office and real assets allowing developers to raise funds by selling completed buildings to investors and listing them as a trust. Previously REITs did not take off due to taxation challenges. This budget has done away with Dividend Distribution Tax, thus enabling exposure to commercial real estate at lower values.

Expect Infrastructure Investment Trusts to also take off as a result of this change in dividend distribution tax provisions.

  1. Gold Bonds- Long term capital gains from the sale of gold bonds will continue to be taxable but now eligible for indexation benefits. This facilitates taking exposure to gold in a paper form.

The budget has also proposed to make interest and capital gains from the gold monetization scheme tax free. Thus yields from gold are possibly now more attractive than rental yields from residential real estate, considering that the returns are tax free.

  1. Measures for deepening of corporate Bond Market-

a. LICof india will setup a dedicated fund to provide credit enhancement to infrastructure projects. The fund will help in raising credit rating of bonds floated by infrastructure companies.

b.Development of an online auction platform for development of private placement market in corporate bonds.

c.A complete information repository for corporate bonds covering both primary and     secondary market segments will be developed jointly by SEBI and RBI.

d.A framework for an electronic platform for Repo market in corporate bonds will be    developed by RBI.

This will enable investors to invest in corporate bonds and give them another option to add fixed income exposure to their portfolio.

  1. Fiscal target to be maintained at 3.5% – With the government sticking to its target of 3.5% of GDP for FY 17, fiscal discipline has been adhered to for now. This could lead to drop in bond yields and could be particularly positive for duration funds or portfolios having longer duration bonds. Transmission of falling interest rates could finally be a reality.

Your Taxes

  1. There has been no major change in income tax slabs , for individuals earning upto Rs 1 crore.
  2. Surcharge- There has been an increase in Surcharge on income above Rs. 1 Crore from 12% to 15%.

For an individual below 60 years with an income above 1 Crore ( eg. 1.1 Crore), he will end up paying approximately Rs 91,000 more due to the 3% increase in Surcharge.

  1. Rebate- Under Section 87A, for individuals with income not exceeding Rs. 5 lakhs, the rebate has increased from Rs. 2,000 earlier to Rs. 5,000.
  1. Dividend Distribution Tax- The amendment in dividend distribution tax law is applicable to dividend declared under Section 115O. The section is applicable to domestic companies and it is proposed to amend the Income-tax Act so as to provide that any income by way of dividend in excess of Rs. 10 lakh declared by such domestic company shall be chargeable to tax at the rate of 10%.The above amendment will have no impact on the dividends received by the Mutual Fund unit holders as dividend paid by a mutual fund scheme to a unit holder is covered under Section 115R of the The Income tax Act, 1961. This will hit investors drawing higher dividends but since it is not applicable to dividends from mutual funds it’s a relief.
  2. Presumptive Tax – This scheme is available for small and medium enterprises with turnover not exceeding 1 crore rupees. These were free from getting audited and maintaining detailed books of account and could pay tax at 8% .This turnover limit has increased to Rs. 2 Crore.

Also under the presumptive taxation for professionals with gross receipts up to Rs. 50          Lakh, the presumption of profits has been introduced to 50% of gross receipts.

This should result in significant time saving and costs for professionals and small business owners. However, remember to read the fine print on this clause.

  1. Reduction in tax slabs for companies with business income upto Rs 5 crores – The path to reduction of corporate tax rates has begun with a 1% reduction in tax rates for smaller businesses. Expect more to follow going forward.
  2. Undisclosed income – A window from 01 June 2016 to 30 Sep 2016 has been introduced for people to pay 45% on their undisclosed domestic income. This undisclosed income will not be subject to any scrutiny if done within this window. This is an attempt to garner additional revenues and solve the challenges of black money.

Your Loans

  1. Additional deduction of Rs. 50,000- For first time home buyers an additional deduction of Rs.50,000 on top of already existing Rs. 2 lakh has been proposed for loans upto Rs. 35 lakh sanctioned during the next financial year subject to the value of property not exceeding Rs. 50 lakh.

All in all, it’s a budget that will probably not change your money life significantly – but it has a little here and a little there. “Fortunately, there is a sane equilibrium in the character of nations. As there is in that of men.”

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The year 2014 was mostly a year full of positive events for Indian financial markets which caused the equity markets (BSE Sensex) gaining close to 30% in 2014 . Some of the major events that took place are as follows and our outlook in 2015:

  1. Historical electoral results – A strong, pro- growth oriented and business friendly government looks good for economic growth and for businesses. This promise has to translate into big reforms on the ground as most of the early work has been focused on getting the bureaucracy and decisions that were deferred forward.
  2. The GDP growth for Q3 2014 expanded to 5.3% from 5.7% in Q2. It is expected to pick up further to 6-6.5% YOY in FY16 with growth over other parts of the world remaining subdued and hence the gap of India GDP Growth with Global GDP growth is expected to widen as seen from the data below:

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Source:  IMF, credit Suisse Research, Dec 2014

  1. Current Account Deficit (CAD) widened in 2Q FY15 due to widening of trade deficit. However, it is expected to be in a comfort zone in FY16 with falling crude oil prices offsetting high import growth of non-oil and gold.

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Source:  RBI, Citi Research, Dec’14

  1. Fiscal Deficit for the first 8 months of FY15 (Apr-Nov) came in at 99% of the budget estimate of 4.1% for the full fiscal year. Whilst it is still possible that the government could achieve the target by controlling spending for this year, the fiscal deficit target of 3.6% of GDP in FY16 could be difficult to meet.

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Source:  Budget Documents, Citi Research, Nov’14, BE=Budgeted Estimate

  1. Earnings Growth: The private sector in India remains in a deleveraging cycle, saddled with excess debt. However, Corporate Earnings should be better than estimates as corporate margins are significantly below the long term averages and should improve gradually as capacity utilization and business conditions improve in the next 2-3 years which is when the full impact of lower interest costs and softer commodity prices will show up in corporate profits.

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Source: Motilal Oswal Research, November 2014

The outlook for equities in 2015 could be challenging, but things look promising from a longer term perspective and there is merit in increasing allocation to equities in a phased manner and staying invested. However, every investor should look at their own specific asset allocations rather than specific asset class performances.

  1. Inflation declined to a series low due to lower commodity prices, slowdown in consumer demand, low growth in MSPs and falling oil prices. CPI inflation eased to a series-low 4.4% in November 2014 from 5.5% in October 2014 in year-on-year (y-o-y) terms. This primarily reflected a sharp decline in food inflation to 3.6% in November 2014 from 5.7% in October 2014, as well as a fall in core-CPI to 5.5% from 5.9%. In fact, WPI inflation declined to 0% in November 2014.

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Source: CSO, ICRA Research

In the December Policy review, RBI kept the rates unchanged and revised the CPI target to 6% for March 2015 and also as per RBI, the risks to the Jan 2016 CPI target of 6% looks balanced. There could be concerns during the first quarter of 2015 as RBI waits for certainty with regards to lower/stable inflation, and fiscal adjustments during the budget before commencing any monetary easing and interest rate cuts. Global concerns over interest rate hike in US and movement of global crude oil prices will also keep investors guessing on the direction of interest rates in India.

Fall in inflation and slow economic growth would lead to cut in interest rates in future. As seen from the chart below, bond yields have moved sooner than policy rates more often. Currently also, the yields have fallen in anticipation of a rate cut.

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Source: RBI, Bloomberg

RBI is also targeting a real positive return on interest rates to potentially move savings from physical assets to financial assets. This could mean that a 6% CPI inflation would synchronize with a 7% repo rate – which means a 100 bps cut in repo rate over the next 18 months.

Investors will need to have a sufficiently long time horizon ( 12-24  months) when investing in duration strategies now, especially given that the first 25 bps of the expected cuts are perhaps already in the price.

Thus, we would recommend continuing to stay invested in a portfolio with a mix of longer maturities and accrual funds, which are likely to benefit as interest rates are expected come down in the next 18-24 months.

  1. The global equity markets also continue to perform well with US markets reaching new highs. Crude oil prices corrected to a 5.5 year low due to significant new supply of shale gas from U.S., slowdown in global demand, and a reduction in per unit consumption in automobiles due to better and efficient technology. So, there’s enough reason to believe that oil prices will remain favourably low. Obviously, a sharp drop in oil prices can potentially create some pressures in oil exporting countries like Russia and in market players who were perhaps overextended in trading.

Also, lower oil prices reduce inflationary pressures and current account deficits allowing emerging market central banks greater freedom to stimulate domestic economies.

We think 2015 is going to be a year of divergence in economic growth and central bank policy. While the US is leading developed markets growth, Europe and Japan are struggling for growth at this point of time and China is still in search of its sustainable growth formula. So we could have central banks across the globe moving in a de-synchronized manner where US is looking to normalize its interest rate structure, while Japan and Europe will still continue to adopt loose monetary policy conditions to fight deflation in their economy. This divergence in policy action will increase market volatility and require investors to pay more attention to risk management.

  1. Currency: Dollar strength and one of the drivers of this trend is the shale gas revolution which US is experiencing and its impact on shrinking the US economy’s current account deficit. This could pose some challenges for emerging markets but stronger fundamentals should limit the financial risks for those emerging market which have already gone through a course correction over the last 18 to 24 months.

Hence, we continue to reiterate to build a well diversified portfolio with having exposure of between 10-15% into international investments to hedge against currency risk.

  1. Gold prices could continue to remain under pressure in the short term due to the fear of interest rate hike in US. Whilst the INR currently looks a little overvalued and is expected to depreciate, Gold as an asset class could gain value as it has an inverse relationship with the Indian currency traditionally.

Hence, we continue to believe to have gold as small part of the portfolio for the purpose of diversification and hedge currency risk.

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Indian Equity markets once again touched all time highs by crossing the 28500 level on the BSE SENSEX due to various reasons like structural reforms made by strong government, weak commodity and oil prices, inflation easing further, improvement in macros and continued foreign flows on the back of strong  liquidity conditions overseas

Equities:  The CNX Nifty and CNX Midcap increased by approx. 6% in the last one month. The local market sentiment has remained buoyant through the last few quarters as the market anticipates a strong domestic recovery and lower interest rates in an improving policy environment. Various macro factors like GDP growth, Current Account Deficit (CAD), Fiscal deficit (FD), IIP, WPI and CPI are showing an encouraging trend in FY 2014-15, compared to last year FY 2013.

Featured imageSource:  Citi Research, HDFC MF, Colored rows refer to yearly data; other represent quarterly data

Corporate margins are currently at cyclical lows, and though earnings are still to significantly pick up and may take a few more quarters, better managed companies are starting to show some traction. As corporate margins normalize from depressed levels and as interest rates move lower, current P/Es that look expensive could start to look much more justifiable.

However, it is critical to have a long term horizon for investors buying into equities as always, as there could be volatility in the short term, especially with a consensus positive view on India. A consensus positive view tends to be a good contrarian indicator very often, so having a long term view and holding some cash to buy on corrections could be a good idea.

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While the U.S. continues to normalize its monetary policies, the same does not apply elsewhere. To overcome weakness in Europe, China and Japan, the respective central banks are taking steps towards more monetary easing to stimulate growth in their economies.

Emerging Markets like India and China have adopted a more flexible exchange rate system, increased Foreign Exchange reserves and managed their external debt in an efficient way thus far.

Featured imageSource: MSCI, Credit Suisse, I/B/E/S, FactSet, J.P. Morgan Economics, J.P. Morgan Asset Management “Guide to the Markets – Asia.”

Investors should remain disciplined in maintaining a well-diversified portfolio by investing across domestic and international equities. A global economic recovery should favour equities, especially emerging markets like India and China that are likely to benefit from a global recovery.  Both emerging markets and developed markets should benefit as a result.

Over the long term, the INR should continue to depreciate vs. the USD at nearly the rate of inflation differential between India and US (last 30 years CAGR of INR depreciation vs USD is 5.5 %; inflation differential between India and US is 4.8%). Therefore, we continue to recommend building international exposure in the portfolio for the purpose of diversification and act as a hedge against currency risk.

Fixed Income: While the equity market is on a high, there are good investment opportunities that we foresee in the fixed income market. There are various factors that impact inflation and the table below shows that they are moderating:

Featured image

Investors should start looking at bonds and bond funds (a combination of short, medium and long term options would be recommended, depending upon investment objectives and risk appetite) as a means of hedging their future reinvestment risks.

Globally the gap between US &Indian interest rates is currently high, yet, a sharper than expected reversal in US interest rates could lead to volatility / challenges for the Indian fixed income markets as well. Foreign portfolio flows into debt have also been at a high for many months now, as can be seen from the graph below, and thus investors need to be cautious about any reversal in fund flows. Thus maintaining a long term view on fixed income investments (18-36 months) wouldalso be crucial.

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CPI inflation eased to a series-low 5.5% in October 2014 from 6.5% in September 2014 in year-on-year (y-o-y) terms.  This primarily reflected a sharp decline in food inflation to 5.8% in October 2014 from 7.6% in September 2014, even as core inflation was unchanged at 5.9%.

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Source: CSLO, ICRA Research

However, RBI may not cut the rates in the upcoming monetary policy in December unless they are very sure of achieving CPI inflation target of 6% by January’2016. In addition, it may want to reward investors with continued positive real returns of between 1%-1.5% p.a. over and above inflation, which should help monies move from physical assets like real estate and gold to fixed income instruments as well.

Gold: Gold may continue to see downward pressure globally, with weak commodity prices, and less fear amongst global investors. The government has removed gold import restrictions in spite of the fact that gold imports went up significantly in the last festive month to $3.75 billion. Hence, allocating only a small portion of your investments into this asset class continues to be a good strategy in our view.

We came across a very interesting table recently showing the returns on CAGR basis and the risk measured by standard deviation over 1, 3 and 5 years holding periods of the BSE SENSEX, 1 year SBI Fixed deposit (FD) and Gold in INR terms for the last 30 years:

Featured imageSource: Bloomberg, HDFC MF

As you can see from the above data that:

FDs vs Gold: Fixed deposit returns are very close to the Gold returns in the last 30 years; however the volatility or risk in gold is much higher compared to the risk in FD. Hence, Gold is not a superior option compared to FDs to invest in from a risk perspective.

Equities vs Gold:  Long term returns on equities are much higher than returns on gold (appreciation in Sensex was 5x of gold*). Volatility of equity returns is high but to a lesser extent (3x over 3 year holding periods and 2x over 5 year holding periods). Equities are therefore a superior asset class compared to gold for long term investments and for those with tolerance to volatility.

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India equity markets celebrated Diwali in style, with the Nifty regaining the 8,000 mark and the Sensex moving above 27000.

There was plenty of positive news flow from India like the Government announcing a series of policy reforms including diesel deregulation, gas price hikes and e-auction of the cancelled coal blocks. The victory of the BJP in the Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana too buoyed sentiments.

Equity:

Nifty increased by 1.02% whereas CNX Midcap increased by 1.44% during the month.

The Price to Equity ratios continues to show that equity market valuations are above 20 Year average and it is therefore critical to see earnings pick up to justify current valuations . Early signs show that it is starting to happen as you can from the chart below on both PAT and EBITDA margins for Nifty companies:

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Source: Motilal Oswal Research, 2014

In the graph below it is very clear that investment growth has picked up recently in India compared to some of the other emerging markets (like Brazil, Russia and Mexico), but needs to rise further for economic growth to improve structurally.

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Source: Morgan Stanley Research, October 2014

Global economic growth woes continued – the IMF downgraded its economic outlook on the globe due to weaker than expected global activity in the first half of 2014, along with ongoing Middle East tensions, the Ukrainian and Russian standoff, along with the Hong kong political unrest. The new epidemic disease Ebola is also a big concern in U.S, African and European countries. News from Europe also continues to be challenging. The US ended its bond buying program but maintained its stances on keeping interest rates low for a considerable period, in line with market expectations. Whilst it is very tempting to move to a 100% domestic portfolio in this environment, we continue to recommend to have at least 10% of the portfolio invested globally for the purpose of global diversification, as well as act as a hedge against currency risk.

With projections of GDP growth of 5.5 percent in FY 2014–15 and 6.5 percent in the following year, Q2 2014 GDP growth came at 5.7%, above the consensus expectations. We believe that the Indian economy is on the cusp of a growth uptrend and this will contribute to growth in corporate earnings as we have shown in our charts above in this article and hence will justify strong performance of Indian equities, especially with oil and commodity prices coming off. However, it is critical to keep you asset allocation intact.

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Source: MSCI, Credit Suisse, I/B/E/S, FactSet, J.P. Morgan Economics, J.P. Morgan Asset Management “Guide to the Markets – Asia.”

Fixed Income

CPI inflation eased to a series-low 6.5% in September 2014 from  7.8% in August 2014 in year-on-year (y-o-y) terms and Core-CPI inflation (excluding food, beverages & tobacco and fuel & light) declined significantly to a series-low of 5.9% in September 2014 from 6.9% in August 2014 (refer chart below)

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Source: CSO, ICRA Research

Inflation related to fuel & light moderated to 3.5% in September 2014 from 4.2% in August 2014 in y-o-y terms. Softening of prices of various commodities including crude oil and domestic fuel prices would benefit the CPI trajectory in the near term and hence we continue to expect the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) January 2015 target of restricting CPI inflation below 8.0% to be achieved.

Nevertheless, the probability of a Repo rate cut in 2014-15 remains low, as the RBI is likely to continue to focus on containing inflationary expectations to improve the likelihood of restricting CPI inflation below the January 2016 target of 6.0%.

The below chart shows the Interest rate differentials between US and India:

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Source: Axis Mutual Fund

There is a fear that higher US rates will draw FII money away from India. This is not borne out by history. During 2004-06 even with rate hikes money continued to flow into India from FIIs. Secondly, back in 2004 at the start of the cycle, US rates were at 1% and Indian rates were at 4.5% implying a 350 bps differential. By the end of the Fed rate hikes, the rates were respectively 5.25% and 6.50% implying a differential of just 125 bps. In contrast currently the US is close to zero (officially the overnight target is 0 to 0.25%), while RBI is at 8%, a differential of nearly 800 bps.

Hence, we recommend having the fixed income portion of the portfolio comprising of both accrual and duration strategies where accrual strategies will lock into current high interest rates and duration strategies will start benefitting once the interest rates start coming off over the next 12-24 months.

Gold:

Demand for Gold has seen a rebound in recent days in India and China. India celebrated Diwali, the biggest gold buying festival  which boosted physical demand for the yellow metal on support of low prices. Meanwhile, a surge in Gold imports pushed up the India’s trade deficit for September to $14.25 billion of which Gold imports accounts for $3.75 billion. This raises questions on whether there can be some quantitative restrictions or higher import duties put on gold , to bring down the demand. Hence, allocating only a smaller portion of your portfolio in Gold continues to be a prudent strategy.

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India seems to be getting more and more integrated with global financial markets. Thus, even though most Indian investors probably have only a small portion of their investments overseas, events that take place globally seem to impact financial markets in India significantly and as a result domestic Indian portfolios as well. Whilst there is no shortage of news and information on what’s happening in Europe and the US, we believe that its critical to focus on the key variables in these economies and the likely resultant risks for Indian investors.

Lets start with the US, where the news flow has largely been positive over the last few months, at least as far as employment data, retail sales and GDP growth is concerned. Whilst this is obviously heartening, a significant amount of the growth seems to be emerging from increased inventory levels and businesses restocking in anticipation of increased consumer spending.

Thus the key question is, will the consumer actually buy?

The US consumer has to deal with higher oil prices, continuing falls in home prices, a low savings rates and above all, a tax structure that may end up changing depending on who is elected as the President of the United States later this year. Therefore, the consumer may not necessarily buy as anticipated, and the result will be a GDP growth rate that could well slip significantly below the currently projected 2.5% to 3%. Therefore, the outlook for both the US and the US dollar may not be as bright as it currently seems.

Moving to Europe, where there is a sense of relief post the Greek settlement last week, the incremental liquidity of 1.1 trillion euros through LTROs has obviously been a huge help in deferring the problems of Southern Europe.  However, there seems to be a high likelihood that Portugal, Greece or even some of the other countries could walk out of the Eurozone. Thus, Europe will continue to suffer from short term solutions for long term challenges. A third round of LTRO could well be the next solution.

Thus, as an Indian investor, whilst increased global liquidity may well take asset prices up significantly, just like they have in the last couple of months, it is critical that investors focus deeply on valuations before making their investment decisions, be it equities, real estate or gold. A diversified investment strategy continues to be the best solution in these times in our opinion. It will probably continue to come second to the best asset class return over the next 12 months but the question is “ Can you really predict which will be the best asset class over the next 12 months?”

This article was written by Vishal Dhawan, CFPCM 

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