According to the chief economist of a leading private sector bank that we were talking to, inflation is actually expected to fall to 0% sometime during the next six months.
Of course, part of it will be due to the high base effect. The second equally
significant factor is the sharp decline in prices of almost all commodities,
especially that of oil, which augurs well with regard to the inflation, expectation
of a commodity importing country like ours.
With inflation no longer a threat, the government can pull out all the stops to encourage growth and limit the collateral damage that the recession ravaged West can wreak on our economy. Indeed, already the ball is in play.
Last week, the central government and the RBI announced a co-ordinated stimulus package, where monetary easing complemented with fiscal sops is expected to release a huge amount of liquidity that hopefully will ease the flow of funds through the financial pipelines of our economy.
With bond yields dipping to as low as 4.86%, counter party risk spooked banks
will at last be forced to use their assets for productive purposes such as lending,
thereby kick-starting the credit cycle in the economy. At the same time, CRR,
which is the share of deposits that banks need to park with RBI, has also been
brought down in five successive cuts to 5%. The aggregate liquidity that has
been released into the system due to monetary actions undertaken so far is expected
to be in the region of Rs 3-lakh crore.
So what does all this mean for us retail investors? Well, first and foremost, it is almost a given that such strong measures will without any doubt see a sharp drop in interest rates.
In fact K.V. Kamath of ICICI Bank has gone on record to state that he expects interest rates to fall by up to 5 percentage points over the next six months. Therefore, those investors who intend to park their money in bank deposits should hurry, if they haven't invested already. With bank deposit rates coming off, alternative investments like company FDs would suddenly start seeming attractive.
Though monetary policy is being eased, some corporates especially in the real
estate and construction sectors would find raising money from traditional sources
difficult. Offering the retail investor a higher rate on its corporate FD would
be the immediate recourse adopted and it is here that a retail investor should
An attempt to earn marginally higher return could well prove to be one in which the capital itself may get stuck. Realise that company fixed deposits are unsecured loans and not subject to a charge on the fixed assets of the company concerned. There is a reason why banks are chary of lending to certain corporates and investors must undertake the necessary due diligence especially in the continued absence of an efficient and expeditious investor grievance and legal machinery.
If we were you, we would prefer to put our money in gilt and long-term bond funds. Over the next twelve months or so, this is the space that offers the highest potential for safe yet attractive return.
This is because interest rates and prices of fixed income instruments share an inverse relationship. When the overall interest rates in the economy rise, the prices of fixed income earning instruments fall and vice versa. To illustrate how fluctuations in interest rates affect the returns, let us take the example of an income fund.
Tax treatment of portfolio management schemes
We assume that the current NAV of the fund is Rs 10 and its corpus is Rs 1,000 crore. This means that if the fund sells all the assets of the scheme and distributes the money on equitable basis to all the unit holders, they will receive Rs 10 per unit. Now suppose, the interest rate falls from 10% to 9%. Immediately thereafter you wish to invest Rs 1 lakh in the scheme. Realise that the entire corpus of the fund stands invested at an average return of 10%.
If the fund sells the units to you at it's current NAV of Rs 10, you will be allotted 10,000 units. This will benefit you immensely. You will be a partner in sharing the benefit of the higher returns of 10%, though the fund will be forced to invest your Rs 1 lakh at the lower rate of 9%.
This is injustice to the existing investors. Therefore, something has got to be done to protect their interest. Here comes the 'mark-to-market' concept. The fund raises its NAV to Rs 11.11. You will be allotted only 9,000 units and not 10,000. The return on 9,000 units @ 10% would be identical with the return on 10,000 units @ 9%.
In other words, the NAV rises when the interest rates fall.
Indeed this has already started happening and the one-year return on most funds is already in the region of around 20% p.a. Going ahead, as the yield on government securities has already come off substantially, funds investing in corporate bonds as against gilts are expected to earn better return.
The credit spread between gilts and corporate bonds still exists and a 15% annual return in a well-managed income fund of a good pedigree would be a very reasonable expectation.
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