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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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Ulips

 

Unlike a pure insurance policy, a Unit Linked Insurance Plan (ULIP) is a product designed to give investors the benefits of both insurance and investment under a single integrated plan. ULIPs are insurance + investment plans suited for investors with long investment horizons. They work well with investors who may not otherwise keep the discipline of investing as they usually come with long lock ins and high exit costs.

The tempting benefit ULIPs offer is the administrative convenience of not needing to execute the two legs of transactions i.e. insurance and investments separately.

From our experience with investors, we understand that there’s a good chance you already own a Unit Linked insurance plan (ULIP) that either your parents bought for you, or you landed up buying one in the hurry scurry of tax related investments, only to realize later that one should not be mixing insurance and investments.

In the case that you may have purchased a ULIP or you may be contemplating to buy one, it is critical to know a few important items related to them so that you are more aware of what you have or might get yourself into.

 

1. Understand the purpose for purchasing the ULIP – tax planning cannot be the sole motive

While tax planning is clearly on the agenda, you should also assess the objective for which you want to purchase an insurance policy. Is the policy being bought for long term wealth creation, retirement planning or building a corpus for your child’s future? A decision that is prompted solely by the need to save taxes often results in the purchase of a wrong or an unsuitable product.

 

2. Check the charges carefully

All Ulips come with a host of charges. Understanding each of them is crucial to understanding if the product is suitable or not. Such charges include:

  • Premium Allocation Charges: As the name suggests, these fees are to cover expenses incurred by the company to allocate funds, do the underwriting, medical expenses, etc.Your agents commission is also covered under this head.
  • Policy Administrative Charges: These are the charges that are deducted on a timely basis to recover the expenses incurred to maintain the policies under the fund.
  • Surrender Charges: Similar to the exit loadin a mutual fund, these are the charges applicable when encashing a part or the full investment in a plan. As we know that in most of the Mutual Funds, exit load is at about one percent. In ULIPs, surrender charges could vary from a few percentage points to very exhorbitant amounts, basically to deter investors from exiting the plan in a short horizon.
  • Mortality Charges: These are the fees that are deducted on a monthly basis to cover the costs borne by the insurerfor providing a life cover to the policy holder. Depending on the age and the sum insured, these charges are deducted for life cover.
  • Fund Management Charges: The allocation of investment in debt and equity requires the insurer to bear the costs of managing the fund.These are charged as fund management charges.
  • Fund Switching Charges: As the name suggests, switching from one fund to another requires the insuredto pay an amount for covering the expenses borne by the company for making the switch.

 

3. Understand the flexibility to Switch

An investor’s need for liquidity, time horizon, and risk appetite will determine the initial allocation but these change over time. ULIPs offer the flexibility of switching between the funds based on changes in market cycles and changes in investor preferences. The number of free switches during a policy year, the cost of switches and the ease of switching are factors that are important evaluation points when choosing a ULIP.

 

4. Analyse and estimatperformance

With the complexity of the ULIP structure plus the huge list of charges and expenses that comes with it, it is difficult to approximate the kind of performance the product may have given during its existence. Always insist with the insurance agent/advisor to show illustrations and data demonstrating how the fund would has performed and is likely perform considering markets ups and downs. More often that not, data would help you decide better on the decision to invest or not.

 

Probably the only benefit, though largely accidental, of an ULIP is that the investor’s money is locked in due to the structure of a ULIP, forcing him to think long term. However, it is needless to say that other options must also be evaluated in comparison to ULIPs before making a choice to invest in them. The most common strategy might be a combination of Pure Term Life insurance policies along with separate investments in Mutual Funds. But like every investment decision, the first step to take is to determine the investment horizon and risk appetite and not get swayed by fancy words or past performance.

 

 

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blog 2With the recent launch of the ICICI Bharat 22 ETF, a lot of buzz around Exchange Traded Funds or ETF’s has been doing the rounds. Most investors may be wondering whether it is worth investing in ETF’s?

So what is an Exchange Traded Fund?

An ETF is a passive investment instrument whose value is based on a particular index and such a scheme mirrors the index and invests in securities in the same proportion as the underlying index. For example, a Nifty ETF will invest in the 50 stocks compromising the Nifty index. ETF’s are freely marketable securities which are traded on the stock exchange.

Since ETF’s trade on the exchange, their value fluctuates all the time during the market trading hours. This is different from the working of a mutual fund scheme which has a single Net Asset Value (NAV) per day that is determined after the trading hours are over.

Theoretically, ETF’s are structured to provide a variety of advantages to investors. The most prominent among them are as follows:

  • Diversification: ETF’s can provide a variety of diversification based on following themes:
  1. Asset classes such as equities, gold, fixed income
  2. Sectors such as financial services, consumption, infrastructure
  3. Based on market cap i.e. large, mid and small cap
  • Low Cost: One of the biggest attraction of ETF’s has been it’s very low cost structure, especially in comparison to Indian mutual funds. The low costs is primarily due to the fact that an ETF is a passive investment i.e. there is no active intervention in stock selection, re balancing based on a certain view. Therefore the costs associated with hiring professionals and the required infrastructure is avoided, resulting in a significantly cheaper product. Furthermore, most ETF’s have kept the expense ratios low to induce significant inflows from institutional investors. Following are examples of some commonly known ETF’s and their respective Expense Ratios
ETF Expense Ratio
CPSE ETF 0.07%
Motilat Oswal MOSt Shares M100 ETF 1.50%
Kotak Banking ETF 0.20%
ICICI Prudential Nifty iWIN ETF Fund 0.05%
SBI – ETF Nifty 50 0.07%
Average 0.38%

(Source: Value Research, mutual fund websites)

  • Suited to Efficient Markets: it is a global observation that passively managed funds have performed significantly better over actively managed funds where markets are more efficient. This is because in developed markets, all related information that should be priced into the equity market already happens, leaving very little space for the fund managers to beat their respective benchmarks.
  • Reduced Risks: Due to its passive structure, the risk arising due to stock selections by a fund manager are reduced. Furthermore, as an ETF comprises the same stocks in the same allocation as in the underlying index, tracking error is significantly reduced to the point of it being almost negligible. Tracking Error is the standard deviation between the returns of the fund and the underlying index. A lower tracking error indicates the fund is that the ETF will mirror the index more closely and therefore its performance will be more consistent with the same index.

Despite many advantages that ETF’s can bring to the table, in India they so far have been primarily avoided for the following reasons:

  • Liquidity: One of the major disadvantages plaguing ETF’s currently is liquidity. As ETF’s are traded on the exchange like any stock, its not always you will have to opportunity to either buy or sell at the desired quantity or price, depending on the type of ETF involved. However an alternative to this problem is the use of a market maker. A market maker is appointed by fund houses. They, on behalf of fund houses, provide quotes for buying or selling an ETF based on the current NAV of that ETF. This helps ensure liquidity for investors. Any investor can approach a market maker for transaction. The difference in their quote and the NAV of the ETF is called “spread”, is the cost for the services. –
  • Lack of awareness: Distributors receive negligible commission for recommending and executing an investment into an ETF. Because of these low margins not much efforts have gone into promoting ETF’s. Thus, most investors are unaware of what an ETF is and how it can add value to their portfolio.
  • Relative Underperformance over long term: While in theory ETF’s should out perform active managed funds in an efficient market, the point to note is that India is still some time from achieving that status. Hence actively managed equity funds, especially in the top quartile, are able to beat the underlying index, and ETF’s over long term horizons. This currently results in alpha creation which ETF’s may take time to match up to. The following table is a comparison between a random mix of actively managed equity funds and equity oriented ETF’s:
  1yr 3yr 5yr 10yr
Aditya Birla Sun Life Frontline Equity 26.62 10.21 16.89 10.61
Franklin Templeton Franklin India Prima Plus 24.86 11.17 18.22 10.87
HDFC Top 200 28.42 8.39 14.99 10.65
IDFC Premier Equity 30.35 11.72 18.68 14.08
ICICI Prudential Nifty 100 iWIN ETF 27.54 8.44    
Kotak Sensex ETF 23.88 5.36 10.7  
Reliance ETF Nifty BeES 26.78 6.7 11.91 5.75
S&P BSE Sensex 25.58 5.01 11.15 5.14
NSE Nifty 100 26.97 7.55 12.71 6.08
source: value express , date (07 Dec 17), returns data CAGR        

As in the Indian economy continues its march towards being recognized as a developed nation, there is fair certainty that ETF’s will have a far larger role to play. However in current scenarios, practical hurdles continue to keep them out of favor among investors. We believe that assigning a small allocation towards ETF’s, after due diligence, is sufficient basis investor’s risk appetite and investment horizon. As Indian Equity markets evolve, so will the ETF space and this will increase investors interest towards them.

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FinalTreasuryManagmentAs the owner and /or CEO of your HR Consultancy firm, cash flow management is a constant topic of discussions with the finance and accounts team.

What do with the excess cash in hand? Where should it be deployed so that it works a little bit more and grows whilst being highly liquid and safe? How does one ensure that enough reserves are maintained to fund working capital expenses during the low business cycles?

What makes cashflow management critical is that it helps the firm maintain the business flow and also balance better returns for idle money. This in turn goes a long way in ensuring operational functioning and continuity. The question is how is this achieved?

First things first, when you talk about treasury management, you are indirectly referring to constant flow of money in very short time periods. And as most boutique/SME’s face volatile business turnovers, money can be required on priority basis at any point. Hence the priority in Treasury Management primarily lies in ensuring liquidity and safety of capital invested rather than high returns.

Secondly, while significant growth in short term investments should not be expected; it should not necessarily be considered that there are no better options other than the company current account. While Fixed Deposits and Recurring Deposits have been traditional avenues for company owners to park extra monies, they remain inefficient from a taxation perspective. Tax Deducted at Source (TDS) is a definite thorn as tax incidence is occurring even though there are no capital gains received in hand.  Furthermore, falling interest rate scenarios are making them an even less attractive option.

An alternative that should be considered is liquid/ultra short Term/ short term debt mutual funds. Two aspects they score over traditional avenues is (A) they usually do not have any exit penalties  as compared to bank FDs and (B) they are more tax efficient due to tax deferment, as tax incidence only occurs at the time of realised capital gains at the hands of the investor, and they are eligible for indexation benefits as gains from any debt mutual fund investment held for 3 years or longer are taxed at 20% after indexation, thereby improving post tax returns.

In addition, often companies decide to park certain monies with a longer term view. This could be to prepare for possible expansion/acquisition as envisaged in their business plans. But as the requirement of funds is not in the immediate future, short term investment options might not work out in the best interest. Hence separate planning should be considered for such investment purposes.

Last but not least, understanding past company cashflows and extrapolating the data to approximate future cashflows is essential to determine the kind of investment strategy would be ideal. This analysis, while including business growth projections, should also include current liability repayments and expected abnormal gains in the future.

While managing cashflows will indeed be a constant objective, through efficient planning and proper advisory it need not become a source of constant headaches.

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