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.

Anticipation & caution as markets go volatile.

lower-interest-ratesAfter the August sell off post China Crisis, September began with a consolidation while our PM met with the Industry leaders, bankers and economist to get ideas on managing the prevailing global turbulence. He had requested the industry captains to increase their risk and step up investments. The industry leaders used this opportunity to ask for policy actions that will improve the ease of doing business and the need for the interest to be reduced at the earliest.

This action brought strength into the markets which got supported by the European and Asian markets showing recovery along with some strength in the Indian Currency. Following which Government approved several reforms including the allowing of telecom companies to sell radio waves, added as a booster to hold support for the strength in the markets. The European markets charged further following the rise in exports and imports in Germany.

However there was still a lot of caution in the markets as investors were anxious on the outcome of the US Federal Reserve policy, which turned to be subtle as the cut was postponed. There is expectation that the strong fundamentals of India will provide enough protection from the global developments.

Then came, the sudden news of Volkswagen cheating the US markets with a fake emission report which shook the automobile stocks worldwide, Volkswagen lost 48% of its stock value in 2 days, which also impacted many of the prominent Indian companies having big presence in the European markets like Motherson Sumi, Bharat Forge, Bosch etc.,

The reports that the inflation went down to 3.66% and the Wholesale Price Index being negative at -4.95%, was a good stimulus to the markets and then followed the surprise from the RBI with a 0.50% interest rate cut, after which markets went into rally mode.

The ambitious goal to have the inflation at 6% by January 2016 looks like an achievable target. The RBI has now started working towards having the inflation at 5% in 2016-17. All these developments will take our economy to levels which we haven’t seen so far in our life.

Even after all these developments FII’s were net sellers while the Mutual Funds kept continuing with their buying spree in the markets. There are fairly high chances that the FII’s will return back and with a higher allocation for India.

In the meantime, Saudi Arabia withdrew about $70 billion from global asset managers to bring down the widening deficit & reduce exposure to volatile economies as their economy is going into a recession. On the other side of the globe Prime Minister Naredra Modi’s bilateral meet with the US president Mr. Barrack Obama concluded on a high note. Among the countries present like Pakistan & China, India became the centre of attraction. Business captains in the US committed to more investments in India which is a very nice development for our economy.

What was done on the portfolio?

There were 5 exits, 2 reduction of exposure, 6 additions and 2 increases in exposure. Our portfolio is going through a dramatic shift. In the first week of September we moved out of MM Forgings and Bharat Forge well before the Volkswagen news hit the markets, thus saving bigger losses. SKS Micro was exited after the company missed the Small Banking license. Schneider and Sun Pharma Advanced Research moved out of our portfolio. We brought down exposure in Cadila and Welcorp by 100 basis points following their ratings coming down on our ranking tables.

MaduraBrandsOn the additions side, we had 0.50 basis points increase in exposure to Aegis Chemicals and Cosmo Films and have added 100 basis points new exposure to Britannia Industries, Himatsingka Seide, JMC Projects, FDC, Aditya Birla Nuvo and Deep Industries.

Auto sector exposure is getting reduced considerably and is getting replaced with companies having good exports revenue and consumer centric businesses. Weakness in the Rupee is an advantage for companies having export revenues.

This festive season, as you shop for your Van Heusen, Louis Philippe, Allen Solly, Peter England and Planet Fashion for your clothing needs, you will be making a small profit to yourself due to your ownership in Aditya Birla.

Britannia has made a packaging change and has gone into a new promotion, its business is growing, and so, the next time you pick a ‘GOOD DAY’ biscuit pack in the store, you will be contributing a small profit to yourself.

We also have exposure in Hindustan Petroleum, every time you fill gas at the HPCL bunk, you make a small profit.

Feels good that our portfolio owns companies that produce most of the daily use products, just our consumption will not have an impact on the profit of the company, while we can take pride that we are using the products of companies that we own, is it not a good feeling?