After bungee jumping off a cliff, it is good to wait for the adrenaline rush to wear off. Indian bond markets are in exactly this situation now. After falling sharply as rates rose, bond prices are pausing to take a breath. In our debt outlook last year we expected rates to continue their upward climb and recommended strategies to play this. During the course of 2023, we think interest rates could top out and stabilise. We tell you what this will mean for your debt portfolio.
The Reserve Bank’s monetary policy on Wednesday served up another repo rate hike of 35 basis points, adding to the 190 basis points through this year. That takes the repo rate to 6.25% from the Covid low of 4%. The key driving factor behind the rapid rate hikes – that of inflation – still remains. The RBI has clearly spelt its commitment to bringing inflation within the target range, even in its latest monetary policy.
In this light, debt fund strategies you have now, to make the most of the current scenario, can be decided based on what you want:
Lately, it is not just India’s stock market that has been hopping all over the place like an impatient child. The bond market has been doing it too! India’s 10-year government bond yield, which sets the benchmark for all other debt instruments, climbed vertically from 5.8% in July 2020 to 7.61% in June 2022. But after that, it has been unable to make up its mind on whether to climb higher or pause for breath.
When it comes to building long-term portfolios with debt, many of you are confused about which funds to use. Should it be corporate bond funds or gilt funds or credit risk funds? To choose these or a combination of these, you need to first know the difference in the characteristics of these fund categories.
Deposits, bonds and debt funds are great ways to diversify one’s portfolio. But the taxation on these instruments can decide whether an option is attractive or unattractive on a post-tax basis. Taxation, though varies across instruments and can be quite complex. The fact that not all debt instruments are taxed in the same way compounds the decision making dilemma on which option to choose. This write-up will break down the taxation aspect of popular debt instruments for resident individuals.
It is true that debt funds have been a washout in the past 3 years. For an investment of 1-2 years, FDs would have marginally (although not significantly enough) returned higher than liquid and ultra short duration funds.
The headlines now are devoted to sliding equity markets and stock opportunities to ‘buy the dip’. But that’s not the only window of opportunity to make the most of a correction. With the hike in repo rates earlier this month and a clear path now for higher rates, debt markets too offer scope for timely investments.
Not so long ago, if debt investors in India wanted to get a 7% plus return, they had to go to post office schemes with (poor service and) a long lock-in period like the PPF or GOI Floating Rate Savings Bonds with a 7-year lock-in period. These options, apart from the difficulty of accessing them, required investors to sacrifice liquidity for returns.
Indian debt investors have been handed a raw deal in the last three years. Though inflation has been rising and market interest rates edging up, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) were doing their level-best to keep a lid on interest rates, to protect borrowers in a Covid-hit economy.
Muthoot Fincorp, a non-deposit taking NBFC, registered with RBI, has come up with a public offering of secured non-convertible debentures (NCDs). The issue opens on January 5 and closes on January 28, 2022. Should you invest?
So what’s ahead for the prime debt outlook 2022? Do we expect rates to now sidle sideways or to continue their climb? Though the onset of Omicron may see the MPC continue to make dovish noises and delay repo rate hikes as much as it can, we think that market interest rates will continue to climb in 2022 irrespective of whether or not MPC acts.
Prime Funds performance in 2021
Stock markets did not disappoint you in 2021. The various market cap segments delivered textbook-like bull market returns with small caps outperforming midcaps and midcaps outperforming large caps.