Demonetization – NDA’s Smart Move Towards Dismantling The Parallel Economy

On the 9th of Nov, 2016, the NDA Govt came out with an announcement of the discontinuation of the Rs 500 and 1000 currency notes. The news created great discomfort and unrest amongst the people. The move was in the wake of increasing black money and counterfeit notes in circulation. The topic is of immense interest since this move is going to impact the several sectors of the economy and the way policy decisions are approached. I would like to bring out the overall meaning of the parallel economy, the causes, the key commodities which lead to the creation of the parallel economy, the cost that RBI will have to bear because of the decision and further a set of comments on the cost-benefit analysis of the decision from a central bank perspective in this blog. In addition to the above, I would also like to bring out the effects of the Govt’s decision on the near future RBI Monetary policies in the context of the rate and the liquidity, the likely near-term effects on the stock markets, liquidity management of the banks, the effects on real estate, MFIs etc. Let us look at the overall situation and a quick impact analysis on the same.

The parallel economy has been a critical pain point for the NDA Govt to function smoothly. A Parallel economy, based on the black money or unaccounted money, is a big menace to the Indian economy. It is also a cause of big loss in the tax revenues for the government. The Indian economy has grown by 30% in the last 5 years whereas the high value denominated notes have gone up by around 90%. This essentially indicates that the transactions which take place are largely in cash and are unaccounted for and that eventually leads to a creation of a parallel economy and all such transactions do not contribute to the net GDP thus creating hindrances to the growth rate. In order to take a stance against this, the NDA Govt decided to discontinue the old currency notes and replace them with new so that the parallel economy transactions reduce significantly or might come to a stand still in a bit.

Key cause of Parallel economy creation:

  1. Tax Evasion
  2. Cash transaction in trade and services
  3. Corruption
  4. Equity market manipulations
  5. Real Estate etc

Key Investment Avenues for such lump sum cash:

  1. Gold
  2. Informal lending/deposit market
  3. Real Estate

 

Effects on the Monetary Policy:

The Reserve Bank of India may have to change the policy course amidst removal of high value notes as the huge accretion in deposits will increase the overall liquidity in the system. In this situation, the RBI might have to sell out bonds to suck the additional liquidity in the system. The high liquidity in the system shall lead to cheaper loans thus boosting inorganic growth. RBI may want to minimize such impact if any. The additional CASA deposits shall lead to low rate deposits thus leading to cheaper lending with a lagging effect of about 2 quarters.

Sectoral Effects on the Economy:

  1. Real Estate – With lower interest rates in the near future and a liquidity crunch in the real estate sector, home prices might come down by about 20-25% in the medium term.
  2. E Commerce – Reduction in cash transactions has already forced amazon and flipkart to discontinue their cash on delivery services thus impacting their reach and business in terms of the overall sales.
  3. Infrastructure – The sector might face immediate heat since most of the payments to the labourers are made in cash
  4. Agriculture – Agri might face immense negative impacts since the trade largely is carried out on cash basis including the purchase of seeds and fertilizers. However, the impact will be short-lived.
  5. Housing Finance Companies – Sector finance companies shall have opportunities for higher demand amidst lower home prices. However, it might face the heat in terms of the overall credit quality where the lending has been largely for low-income groups.
  6. Banking – Banks/NBFCs shall be benefitted since a large sum of low-cost deposits in the form of CASA accounts shall be accumulated. However, liquidity management and efficient operations shall continue to pose challenges to the banking institution at least till December.

Market Outlook:

The markets shall continue to be volatile in the short-term and significantly jittery in the medium term. The markets are yet to price in the effects of the sudden decision but we can the markets to neutralize by the end of the month. However, the long-term outlook shall be bullish as far the demonetization impacts are concerns. Ultimately, the markets will take their own course based on the likeliness of the future events. Nifty should rise back to the 8500 levels by November end is the majority consensus so far.

Cost Benefit of De-monetization (RBI Perspective):

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Total Cost of Printing Vs Demonetization Benefit Comparison

What the above numbers mean is that the cost for RBI to print new notes shall be close to Rs 62 Billion. The Govt, on the other hand, has targeted to demonetize around 170 Billion. Assuming 100% success, the Govt shall be demonetizing close to 170 billion which is as good as three times the cost the Reserve Bank shall bear to make a smooth transition. It largely is a benefittin trade-off for the Govt as well as the RBI.

The decision of the NDA Govt is one of the most prominent moves of the decade towards making India a better country in terms of growth and transparency . However, the approach of the Govt in handling this chaotic situation smartly will drive the near future results. The Reserve Bank on the other hand, will have to make sure they keep mopping up the additional liquidity in the system and intervene when required to ensure the financial stability of the system. India has clearly welcomed this decision as far as the reactions all over are to be considered. It will be challenging to see the handling of the outcomes that evolve from the decision taken. Hopefully, this should be the fresh start towards making India a more transparent, efficient and the fastest growing emerging economy. If not complete eradication, this will definitely reduce the overall impact of the parallel economy and transfer the reduction as a contribution to the real economy growth rate. I hope as citizen, we will make an effort to ensure the new notes being printed are not soiled by writing on them or keeping them in unhygenic conditions as it adds huge cost to the Govt and the Reserve Bank.

I would love to know the diverse views of the readers as well. Thank you. :).

 

 

Third Bi-Monthly Monetary Policy – R3’s Final Move

The Reserve Bank of India, will announce its third bi monthly monetary policy for the year on Aug 9,2016. This policy review shall be the final move from Dr. Rajan (R3 – RaghuRam Rajan) – the man in the hot seat for the past 3 wonderful years. Will it be a rate cut, a status quo or a rate hike in anticipation to the current economic and global conditions? Lets take a glimpse at the domestic conditions and the global economic conditions as well to assess the probable outcome of the monetary policy on the coming Tuesday. We will discuss the current scheme of things with the monetary policy, various domestic parameters, monetary policy transmissions – improvements and finally what would be the outcome of the monetary policy this time.

A quick background of the current stance in terms of the rates – CRR at 4%, SLR at 21%, Repo Rate at 6.5% (stagnant at that stage for quiet a while now) and the rupee has been hovering in the range of 65-67. On the global front, the Federal Reserves have kept their rates unchanged as well for a significant time span. The Bank of England was witness cutting the lending rates from 0.5% to 0.25% last week. Generally, when the interest rates are near zero levels, if a central bank chooses to cut it further, it essentially signals that the growth is stunted and the central bank wishes to spur the same to the extent possible without using any unconventional monetary measures.

A lot has happened since the past 3-4 months – the Brexit and its global effects, the gradually syncing fear of another global meltdown with most of the advances economies unable to exit the recession ill effects. India, although has been stable so far, cannot afford to think yet another time that we are decoupled from the global turmoil. Being emerging nations, we will be affected by the global downturn if the right measures are not in place. The global conditions are signaling a more accommodative and stable monetary stance (which essentially means a status quo).

On the domestic front, the headline inflation has been inching northwards from the past 3 months. This aspect would definitely get Dr. Rajan worried since the inflation targeting regime would be breached in case the inflation keeps increasing with the persistent rates. The CPI inflation has been hovering around 5.5-5.7% levels lately, however the same going anywhere beyond 6% would have an impact on the consumption and demand growth in the near future. With the target of maintaining the average inflation at 4% by Jan 2017, this monetary policy stance should be a status quo. Food inflation, although increasing at a decreasing rate, should essentially provide some relief for the central bank. The rainfall also has been fairly above the average levels compared to the previous 3 years.

With the auto-regressive integrated moving average predicted forward curve shows a probably uptick in the inflation rates as shown below. RBI would want to wait and watch for the inflation numbers to be published on the 12th of August before they create a case for a rate cut.

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Wholesale price index which was showing deflationary trends in the previous quarter has now started to head northwards sharply in the past 3 months. As far as the inflation metrics are concerned, it certainly reemphasizes a status quo in this monetary policy review.

On the growth front, Index of Industrial Production has shown clear signs of stagnancy so far, but the central bank seems to be hopeful about the revival in the next two quarters since the rate cuts will kick in with a lag. However, the Q2 earnings of most companies have been satisfactory amidst such global turmoil in the rest of the advanced economies. With IIP slowing down, it might act as a key parameter in deciding the policy actions this time. The downward trend however indicates a case for a 25bps rate cut sometime before the end of 2016. Here’s a quick look at the IIP and the forecast so far:

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The currency markets being in turmoil, the rupee has managed to perform significantly better than the rest of the emerging economies, especially against the dollar. I feel, the RBI has create significant foreign currency reserves in order to deal with the turmoil in a much robust way that ever before. With no requirement to stabilize the currency from policy actions, it indicates a status quo as well.

Banking sector, however, has been still struggling with the asset quality. The loan growth still is unable to surpass the barrier of 12% levels, whereas the deposit growth stands at 11%. However, we must appreciate the fact that the inflation targeting regime has been managed efficiently and the loan growth rate has been taken care of simultaneously as well. Although, the loan growth seems subdued, RBI still has room to take hits on the same for a few more months and wait for the global unrest to stabilize. A quick glimpse at the loan growth will indicate the improvements and the forecasts as well:

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The call money markets and the inter bank lending rates have shown a fairly stable nature. The indication of stability of these rates is when they do not break the 200 bps window created by the RBI by setting the repo rates. For the readers: Repo rate is at 6.5%, in order to conclude that the call money rates are stable, they need to be between the 6% (Current Reverse Repo Rate) and 7.0% (Current MSF rates/ Bank Rate) corridor. This corridor usually used to be 200 bps when the liquidity conditions were tight. In case, they break either levels, it calls for a interest rate action to accommodate the change. The current scenario indicates that there is absolutely enough liquidity in the system and no action whatsoever is required by the central bank via the monetary policy tools. A quick glance at the IBLR and its forecast:

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Inefficient monetary policy transmission has been creating hindrances for RBI from a year now in terms of passing on the benefit to the customers. The RBI has reduced the repo rate by over 125bps yet the banks seem to have passed on the rate cuts only to the tune of 60-70 bps. The reason being, the stressed assets and the intense pressure on profitability due to increasing costs and provisions. In order to address this, the RBI asked the banks recently this year to shift their calculations of cost of funds to a efficient method called as the marginal cost of funding. Since then, the banks have implemented the same and a few of them have managed to pass on the benefit of another 5-10 bps recently. Although, the results have been evident, the transmission is going to be a key concern for the RBI in the coming period as well.

Considering the average CPI at 6% and the repo rates at 6.5%, ERI is hovering around 0.25-0.5%  which might affect the growth in the coming future. Although, the ERI is much lower than the RBI comfort zone of 1-1.5%, this might not act as a trigger for a rate cut since taming inflation shall hold priority. However, it does call for a rate cut sometime this year to increase that ERI window to 1% at least.

To sum up, the domestic conditions for growth are improving gradually, mainly driven by consumption demand, which is expected to strengthen with a above average monsoon and the implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission award. Higher public sector capital expenditure, led by roads and railways, should crowd in private investment, offsetting somewhat the subdued requirement for fresh private investment due to financial stress. Yet, business confidence will be restrained to an extent on account of uncertain global factors for the next 6 months at least.

What does all of this mean for the upcoming monetary policy?

It is needless to say that the global economy is under significant pressure. Certainly, the solution does not seem to lie in the monetary sphere at the current moment. I predict, that the RBI might hold the repo rates at the current levels of 6.5%. CRR and SLR might also be untouched due to the ample amount of liquidity and money supply in the system. But witnessing the current conditions and the forecast, RBI might have to step on the gas in the next review with a rate cut of 25 bps. However, the tone of the policy would continue to be fairly dovish and reform driven. However, RBI shall continue to keep its inflation targeting focused until it is tamed to a consistent 4% levels by 2017.

Thank you. 🙂

When The Acche Din Were Around The Corner…

When the acche din were just around the corner, here are two big events that have occurred in the past two weeks (Brexit and Rexit). I would like to talk about brexit in one of my other blogs, and would be focusing on Rexit ( Dr. Rajan opting out of the second term as the RBI Governor) in this one. Raghuram Rajan will step down as the 23rd governor of the Reserve Bank of India when his term expires on 4 September,2016. In this blog, I would be giving in sense of his achievements post his appointment as the RBI Guv, the likely impacts on the markets due to REXIT and the next likely predecessors for the position of the RBI Guv. I will also share statistics in terms of the key indicators before and after Dr. Rajan took over on the Sept 4, 2013.

From converting the Reserve Bank of India into an inflation targeting central bank to forcing a long overdue clean up of the banking sector, Rajan’s three year term has created significant progress. Dr. Rajan, has always been a inflation targeting Guv since the belief was strong that neither higher inflation nor lower interest rates are going to boost growth solely, the growth is always a mix and balance of the two parameters. With his highly focused regime of concentrating on the monetary aspects of the economy by considering various external and internal events has been effective in all the possible ways.

Here’s a list of the key improvements/actions/achievement by the veteran:

  1. MPC (Monetary Policy Committee) – Dr. Rajan announced a committee to review the monetary policy. Although, the attempt was then tweaked by the Govt in such a way that currently there is a hint of RBI Guv losing his rights to take the final decision on the policy actions.
  2. Inflation Targeting – Right after taking over as the governor, Raghuram Rajan appointed a committee to review the monetary policy framework. The committee recommended that the RBI formally shifts its focus on to the consumer price inflation index as the nominal anchor for monetary policy in the country rather than WPI. As part of this framework, the RBI was to bring down inflation to 6% by March 2016 and 5% by March 2015. Over the medium term, the RBI now has a target of bringing inflation down to 4% (+/- 2%). Looking at the current situations, the RBI has fairly achieved its targets.
  3. Revitalization Stress Assets – RBI took various measures against the stressed assets of the banking sector especially in terms of the corporate and strategic debt restructuring norms.
  4. Bank Licensing – While the process of licensing another round of universal banks was kicked off during D. Subbarao’s tenure, Rajan’s tenure saw two new banks (IDFC Bank and Bandhan Bank) being licensed. The more significant step in this context, however, was the licensing of differentiated banking licenses.  11 payment banks were given an in-principle approval and at least eight of them will launch operations by early next year to increase penetration in the rural economy. In addition, ten small finance banks were also given in-principle licences to serve small borrowers and businesses. Rajan also floated the idea of wholesale banks and custodian banks, although, with no guidelines as of now. The RBI put out a draft framework for on-tap universal bank licensing as well.
  5. 5/25 Scheme – RBI allowed corporate to extend tenors of credit in case of infrastructure projects thus providing them with a higher gestation period.
  6. Market Development – Market development has been top of the agenda for Rajan as well. The RBI, under Rajan, has also for the first time put in place a framework for foreign investor participation in the bond markets. The RBI may start accepting corporate bonds as collateral for its liquidity operations.
  7. Repo Rates Decline – Repo rates were brought down to 6.5% ( Lowest in the past 6 years) with inflation targeting as the key focus.

Apart from the above mentioned monetary measures taken, Dr. Rajan’s timely actions on the monetary policy decision has enabled a huge change in the key macro economic indicators of India before and after Dr. Rajan taking over. There has been a huge difference in the numbers including the credibility in the world economy and the reduction in the instability of the economy. Here’s a quick stat on that:

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Although, it was an extremely surprising decision by Dr. Rajan, it was very well anticipated looking at the tension between the RBI and the Govt in the recent past. The markets have reacted negatively because of the sudden decision to not continue. The short-term blip will continue for the next 3 months and might settle down once the monetary front is stabilized post appointment of a new RBI governor. However, markets will keep dipping in the short term amidst the uncertainty on the global front, whereas the medium and long-term trend look significantly bullish.

Who Will Fill Rajan’s Shoes:

Lets look at behind-the-scenes scenario of how the RBI Governors have been appointed till date. Even though the Appointments Committee is the official vehicle to do the job, typically, the Prime Minister’s Office chooses the governor with inputs from the finance ministry and the outgoing governor and, on most occasions, there is no written recommendation. The politicians of the ruling party play an important role in the selection but the corporate houses that normally try to influence the appointment of CEOs of commercial banks do not have a voice here, although they have their own preferences.

Here are some of the options that the government may consider as it searches for the 24th governor of the RBI. The four likely candidates are: the current RBI Deputy Governor Urjit Patel, former deputy governors Rakesh Mohan and Subir Gokarn, and State Bank of India Chair, Arundhati Bhattacharya.

Here’s our quick analysis on who would be the probably choice of the Govt:

  1. Rakesh Mohan – A former Dy Guv and a veteran economist. Logically, he will be apt for a fiscal role rather than a monetary chair role due to experience in the former. However, politically he might stand a chance in case the Govt is looking for an economics reforms expert to head the RBI.
  2. Subir Gokarn – A former Dy Guv and a veteran economist especially in the areas of food inflation and inflation related research. However, he might not be the right candidate to head the RBI since that would require the expertise and experience on handling the monetary front of an economy.
  3. Arundhati Bhattacharya –  A career banker, Bhattacharya may make a good candidate against the bad loan crisis in the banking sector. The trouble with appointing Bhattacharya as the head of the central bank is that there is no precedent in recent times of a banker being appointed as the RBI governor. While one of the four RBI deputy governor’s is always a senior banker, the central bank chief has typically been someone who has had an understanding of the wider economy.
  4. Urjit Patel – Current Dy Guv of the RBI. Urjit Patel, who chaired the committee on a new monetary policy framework, has overseen the RBI’s transition to an inflation targeting central bank. Patel has also been driving the central bank’s liquidity policy as well. According to me, Urjit Patel has the highest probability to be appointed as the next Guv of the RBI. However, the political front of the appointment may be different from the predictions that are logically sound.

To sum up, India was in deep trouble in terms of macro economic indicators and the stability of the economy. Dr. Raghuram Rajan, took over on 4th Sept, 2013 and changed the overall image and credibility of the economy. However, it is a sad event that he choose to return back to academia from being the dashing RBI Guv. Although, he has made his choice to join academia, he will always be remembered as the youngest and the most respected Guv of RBI in the coming years. It will be difficult for any other veteran to fill in his shoes, but however, Urjit Patel and Arundhati Bhattacharya look to be the probable candidates to head the RBI so far. When the acche din were around the corner, its hard to believe that Dr. Rajan has quit. 

Thank you. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gold’s Bleak Outlook

Gold. The word itself brings a lot of joy in the minds of Indians (especially the ladies out there :P). But, is gold a great investment in the current economic conditions ?? Would it be wise to buy gold right now or later in the coming years?? The answer is doubtlessly later in the coming years. Here’s why.

The equity markets have been doing very well from the past 15 months, since the NDA came into power. Global economies are as well picking up and are expected to revive in the coming years. This clearly indicates that, the global equity markets are also expected to do well in the near future which will probably put downward pressure on commodity prices. Indian gold prices anyways are in disparity because of the duty structure, and if these are reduced then the gold prices will decrease further. The import duty has already been curtailed.

Gold is the last investment you can make right now. Reason being very simple and completely market related. First and foremost being the returns, especially long-term returns, have always been lower than the overall equity returns. Returns on gold and gold funds have been negative as compared to equities in short-term, while in long-term they have generated returns of 8-9% levels against 15-16% of that of the equity markets.

Many would be of the opinion that ” Gold is a hedge against inflation“. But today we are looking at consistent inflation levels of 5-6% for the past 8 months and RBI with its FIT(Flexible Inflation Targeting) Policy intends to keep it at a level beneficial to the economy ( As it is said a certain level of inflation is good for the economy to grow). Gold as a hedge as well fails in this situation since there is hardly any inflation persisting.

Right from olden times, there is a lot of opacity that exists in gold trading. This causes a lot of loss for an investor or a buyer if he is not well-informed about the scheme and its loop holes. But never the less, the sellers make sure they make amazing profits from the same( thanks to ever-increasing Indians’ love for gold)

“Buy gold and keep them as gold deposits if you want returns is another myth”. Now when we say returns, always remember it should be more than the current inflation figures. If those are not exceeding inflation, you are not getting returns, but rather losing your value. And gold deposit schemes ?? Really ?? Interest rates of 0.75% for three years is hardly any return. A return of 0.25% per year, which if compared to current inflation of 6% would get you a return of -5.75%. Thank god, gold has appreciation of its value else with gold deposit schemes investors would have been in depression.

Invest in gold only for reducing risk on your overall investment portfolio, because they truly are a hedge against the highly unpredictable downside of the equities. To all those who already bought gold at the high rates of 27000-28000 levels, it will definitely help you in reducing the downside if at all you have invested in equities. Others, wait for a while, this bull run might not last for more than a year or two ( the Modi effect is already showing sign of fading away). The best use of your money as of now would be investing into equity directly or through a mutual fund route. Avoid investing into gold, until next year, unless you can put it to use immediately (consumption like in a marriage or to make ornaments. If you are a first time investor of gold, one should prefer coins over physical gold because of the lesser transaction costs of coins. Always remember this one guru mantra : When you equities are doing well commodities(gold) will always lose value and vice versa. No need to buy additional physical gold looking at the current levels of holdings of the Indian families  😉

Happy investing. Thank you.