Lower inflation will cap income from debt investments

India’s developments have become visible in all areas of economic activity. For a very long time, I remember in my school days, teachers used to say that, inflation in our country is high which posses a big challenge to save money. Slowly this challenge is becoming a myth, we have successfully brought down the inflation rates to below 4% levels.

When Raghuram Rajan talked about this a couple of years back, media brushed aside saying that, it is not going to be easy. Now, as we have reached the goal and beyond, we are looking at a newer challenge. When inflation is low and bank rates are high, real return in the economy is also high. This brings the challenge of having to pay higher taxes on income earned from debt investments which qualify for indexation benefits as well as assets like Real Estate.

In 2014, the debt returns were at 8.7% and tax payable was NIL after indexation. In 2017, the returns is almost the same, where the taxable portion of the income has moved up to ₹15742. Which means more than 50% of the returns will be taxed at 20%, thereby bringing down the net returns by more than 10%.

It is interesting to note how new challenges are coming up in life. If inflation stays low and the bank rate does not come down, taxes on debt fund returns will go up making the net gains reasonably lower. Investors in debt funds will have to re-think their investments.

They will also look to Equity funds which is already getting over crowded. Presently running at about 6 lakh crores and with expectations that there is going to be big inflows due to poor FD returns. Fund managers will now have a bigger challenge on stock selection and allocation of funds.

As it is MF’s are holding cash to the maximum permissible limits, presently a scheme can hold 10% cash. When holding cash in anticipation of a correction, if the market keeps moving higher, all these funds or schemes will have under performance against the broad markets. To avoid investors wrath, fund managers will be forced to invest into stocks that are fundamentally poor, thereby attracting very high risk on the investments.

If markets change course, the retail money that has flocked the Indian Mutual Fund industry will begin to move out, again giving the next challenge of meeting redemption pressures.

As the returns from debt funds are going to become lower due to taxes, what can be the next best alternative. Arbitrage funds will be the next place where we will see high inflows. Arbitrage funds are giving returns that are about equal to the prevailing bank rates for Fixed maturities, the biggest advantage they have is the tax free status or Equity taxation status.

Whereas, Arbitrage cannot absorb big flows as the edge to get returns will move away with huge capital chasing the same instruments in the market, which will bring down returns. As every other door to big returns will get locked as an automatic process, investors will be facing a situation of having surplus liquidity and not knowing what to do with it.

Bank rates coming down or inflation moving up is a requirement to keep things as they are, even this condition will require that, the fund flows into the mutual fund market requires a slowdown. All of a sudden the whole country put all their savings into one asset class will for sure ensure that the asset collapses on its own weight. Beyond our inflows, foreign money is also chasing Indian markets big time. FPI limit of 51b$ has got exhausted as I write this article and RBI is thinking to open another 2b$ for FPI’s.

One more change that could come is the returns on debt funds will begin to decline, which is inevitable & get self adjusted.

Investors beware, quality of your investment needs to looked at on highest priority. Just going to a website and selecting the top ranked fund will no more give the best returns. People need to take help of advisers while doing their investments. soon, we will have analysts who will research and find good Mutual Fund Schemes for investments.

27 PSB’s lost 1.14 Lakh Crores in 4 years.

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27 Public Sector Banks have written off 1.14 lakh crores of bad debts in the last 4 years. Here is the efficiency of the banking sector in the hands of the government management. It is disturbing to realize the poor condition our banks are being managed. On the other hand the private sector counterparts are doing good business. What does this mean? Very poor competency among the PSB management, next to zero responsibility in delivering results.

Couple of days back there was a question to me; SBI has come down to 200 from 320, can we buy? The reason behind this thought was that, the SBI stock had been at a higher price very recently, now it has fallen and hence it is cheap. The answer I gave was, the price was at 320 was for a reason and it is the same when it is at 200, now. It is not cheap. In a couple of days from this discussion, SBI stock price came to 160, and again there was the question, now that it is at 160 can we buy now?

What this indicates is, that people of India have developed so much confidence on this bank; it has been part and parcel of their life for generations. Little do they know that, what was in the early days is history, there was no competition, though the management did not have the competency or responsibility, they had the advantage of opportunity at their hands, they got some of the best and some that were useless too, on the whole they made money.

Now the situation is different, private banks are giving this irresponsible bank management a run for their money. All the quality assets have gone to the private players because of the quality and service they provide. Now, the left over business is crap and that is where these PSB’s are rolling their funds. Very soon all the confidence that the citizens of India have on SBI or the PSB’s on the whole will vanish into thin air.

In our portfolio, we don’t have banking exposure since 2013. It was very early for us to move away from banking investments, the reason we got out was because our system did not qualify banks for investment, and their growth was fairly lower in comparison to companies that were showing super strong growth. Hence, our investments moved to those quality assets and now, when the whole market is weak, our portfolio is even more safe as we have moved off from equity exposure to a fair extent, thus keeping the capital protected in times of turbulence.

Our portfolio is 30% in Equity and 70% in short term debt, making the capital safe when the markets are weak.

6 out of 11 top earners in our portfolio

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The second quarter results are likely to be subdued and will impact the markets in the coming weeks as results get announced. The list published in ET on 9th October 2015 shows some companies that have the potential to outperform the current quarter on the growth front. Among the 11 companies that are listed above, our portfolio have 6 of them.

As we can see in the list of expected top performers, the highest concentration is from the Pharma sector followed by the NBFC sector. In our portfolio too, we have increased exposure towards Pharma and NBFC segments a couple of months back & this happened as a dynamic process.

In 2014 our portfolio had more exposure into Auto Ancillary companies, as months passed the stock price movement of these stocks began to slow down, showing signs of tiredness. About 2 weeks before the Volkswagen issue came to light, almost all of our Auto segment exposure began to take exit. When Volkswagen issue got reported and the market collapsed, where most of the ancillary companies having presence in Germany took a big hit, out portfolio sustained lower damage. Just about that time the₹15000 Crores,  Amtek Auto default got reported, which shook the debt Mutual Fund market where JP Morgan fund had big exposure and they had to split the fund and bring controls on redemption. There are many PSU Banks which are likely to take a hit from this default.

Following our exits, the overall exposure in stocks got reduced to 75% of the capital, thus protecting the portfolio from the negative bias the markets had prior to RBI policy announcement reducing interest rates.

RBI decision came as a surprise, which Raguram Rajan has made us accustomed to since September 2013. Markets began to rally; mostly short covering, took the market to higher ups, while the strength seems to be waning now as the expectations from result season is tepid. Following results announcement, if there is going to be any weakness; our portfolio has got fairly protected due to our lower exposure and having investments into companies that are likely to give out good results. While the market began to gain strength, a couple of new stocks like BEML, Deep Industries, India Bulls housing have got added to our portfolio.

As the result season unfolds, there would be more clarity about which companies have greater strength in performance and those companies will automatically get added to our portfolio, from where, we will be prepared for our next big journey in the market rally. Being invested into the best businesses gives great confidence about the performance. In the last 3 years since we have been tracking the portfolio performance, we have achieved 68.50% gains, whereas in the same period the SENSEX has grown 38%. We have managed to achieve twice the return provided by the benchmark.