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Posts Tagged ‘#RBIPolicy’

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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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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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