20 Aug, 2013, TNN.
MUMBAI: Retail customers of home, auto and consumer loans should brace themselves for a rough ride ahead as signals emerging from the bond market point towards an increase in interest rates. And this rise could be sharp and quick.
The indications are derived from the benchmark 10-year yield on government securities (G-secs), which touched 9.27% per annum on Monday, a five-year high and the highest in the post-Lehman era. The 10-year benchmark rate is the highest risk-free rate that one can get in the country, and hence this is the benchmark rate for banks and other lenders for setting their onward lending rates for customers.
The current level is also close to the decade high rate of 9.60%, bond dealers said. The sharp rise is mainly because of the tough liquidity situation in the market triggered by various monetary tightening measures since July 15. At close the 10-year yield was at 9.22%, up 34 basis points (100 basis points = 1 percentage point) from its Friday close at 8.88%. Since May 24, benchmark yield has risen by 2.11 percentage points, and since August 1, by 1.06 percentage points to Monday’s close at 9.22% per annum.
According to industry analysts and debt fund managers, the rise in rates would hurt those home loan customers who have gone for the floating rate plan, new auto and other consumer loan customers, besides all the large and small corporate borrowers. However, the silver lining for customers would be that along with higher borrowing rates, fixed deposit rates would also rise and one can invest during those high rates to earn better returns for several months.
In addition to the benchmark rate, yields on all other long term G-secs are either already above the 9.5% mark or very close to that level. Moreover RBI is not infusing liquidity through open market operations (OMOs), which is by buying G-secs from the market, pointed out a dealer with a local bond house.
“Local as well as global factors are contributing to this rise in rates in India,” a top debt fund manager said. “On the local front, RBI’s recent steps to curb liquidity to stem the weakness of the rupee has not had its intended impact and that is leading bond market players to assign high uncertainty premium to G-sec rates,” the fund manager said.
Since July 15, RBI has tightened liquidity in the system, assuming that would force market players to buy less dollars in the forward market and hence would stem the weakness of the Indian currency. However, since July 15, the rupee has depreciated nearly 5.5%, indicating that the measures have failed. “On the global front, the fears of tapering off of by US Fed is also weakening emerging market currencies,” the fund manager said.
Axis Bank on Monday raised its base rate by 25 bps to 10.25%. Earlier Andhra Bank and Karur Vysya Bank also raised its base rate by 25 basis points The country’s largest private lender ICICI Bank hiked its deposit rates by 50 to 75 basis points. Canara Bank also hiked fixed deposit rates in some maturities.
Along with the rise in bond yields, the rate of inflation is also going up. On Wednesday, the wholesale price index (WPI) for July showed a jump to 5.79%, the fastest rate seen in the last five months and also higher than the RBI’s comfort level of 5.5%. According to Bloomberg data, the last time the market saw 9% yield on a 10-year paper was in late August, 2008. Since then the benchmark rate has remained below the 9% level, and in between falling as low as 5.24% in early January 2009.
Fund managers believe that the government has to instill confidence among investors and that could bring in the much-needed stability in the bond market. Once that stability comes, investors would come back to invest which would lead to soften rates. “Yields are looking very attractive at this point of time. Once people see some stability on the currency front, we may see large follow up buying in bonds, including in G-secs,” said Amit Tripathi, head of fixed income, Reliance Mutual Fund.
On Monday, there was spillover impact of the hardening of the rates in the auction for government papers also. In the auction for 28-day cash management bill (CMB) for Rs 11,000 crore, the cut-off yield was fixed at Rs 12.24% per annum. Compared to Monday’s auction, the cut-off yield in the auction for 34-day CMB on August 13 was 11.94%.