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RBI has , last night, once again introduced measures to tighten liquidity, so that the fall of the rupee can be controlled by removing liquidity for possible speculation on the rupee. Whilst this may seem like a localized response to many and unique to India, it is important to note that similar measures have been announced in Turkey, Brazil, Indonesia and China in different forms. Bond markets in India have reacted sharply to these tightening measures and are likely to do so every time these measures are announced. However, it is important to look at this from a historical perspective as the widely held view is that these measures are temporary in nature. If one looks at past measures of currency defence by the RBI, and the resultant measures and periods that it takes to reverse such measures, it provides some interesting insights. Four periods have been considered here:

1. 2011-12, when the rupee depreciated after the emergence of the Euro crisis and the US debt downgrade.

2. 2008, during the period of high oil prices and the global financial crisis.

3. 2000, post the tech bubble bursting

4. 1998, in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis

PERIOD

DATE OF MEASURE

RBI’s ACTION

BOND YIELD IMPACT

REVERSAL DATE

PERIOD RUN

1998: Asian Financial Crisis

Jan 1998

· Increase in bank rate by 200 bps· Increase in CRR by 50 bps · Immediate increase in yields· But within 1 month yields decreased though it took a few months to fully normalize Mar 1998 · Policy: Approx. 2-3 months· Bond Market: 1 month
2000: Tech Bubble

July-Aug 2000

· Increase in bank rate by 100 bps· Increase in CRR by 50 bps, 25 bps immediately reversed · Immediate rise in yields· Yields peaked by Nov 2000

· But reached a new low within 6 months

Feb-Mar 2001 · Policy: Approx. 6 months· Bond Market: 2-3 months
2008: Global Financial Crisis

Jun-July 2008

· Increase in repo rate by 125 bps· Increase in CRR by 75 bps · Immediate rise in yields, however rates peaked before the last rate hike· Yields set a new low within 2 months of rate hike Oct 2008 · Policy & Bond Market:Approx. 1-2 months
2011-12: Aftermath of the US Debt downgrade

Sep-Dec 2011

· Increase in FCNR & NRE rates· Increase in repo rate by 100 bps · Yields peaked in Nov 2011bu reversed all losses by end Dec 2011· But reversed all losses by end of Dec 2011 · CRR cut in Jan 2012· Repo rate cut in April 2012 · Policy : Approx. 6 months· Bond Market: 2-3 months

Source: Bloomber,RBI, Axis Mutual Fund

As you will see from the data above, whilst bond markets sold off in response to RBI measures, bond yields typically peaked very soon after the policy actions and resumed the downward trend soon after. The total period of the bond market stress was 1-3 months, whilst RBI itself reversed the measures within 2-6 months. Thus, all these measures were temporary and were reversed when it became apparent that the impact on the domestic economy was worse than the marginal impact on the exchange rate.

Therefore, from an investor perspective, it is important to view your holdings in bonds and bond funds keeping this perspective in mind ie if you have a short term holding period, you need to be concerned about the volatility, but if you have a long term horizon, and are using bonds and bond funds as a part of your overall asset allocation strategy, you should look at these opportunities to buy into this volatility over the next few months.

Of course we should not forget what Warren Buffet once remarked “If past history was all there was to the game, the richest people would be librarians.”

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