Category Archives: Fixed Income

For the benefit of Senior Citizens and Good to Know for others

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Dear Friends,
There were constant complaints from Senior Citizens to RBI about the interest rate cuts that resulted in the lowering of Bank FD rates from over 9% to about 7%. Dr. Rajan explicitly mentioned this in one of his speeches and the famous “Dosa Economics” is linked to this ( 
In the Budget 2017, the government announced a scheme which will provide guaranteed returns to Senior Citizens for 10 years and the rate would be a fixed without any changes, thereby giving some solace. 
LIC of India was handed over this initiative and they have executed this (read the attachment). It is referred as single premium pension plan offering 8.3% on a annualized basis and 8% monthly. 
The plan has a 10 year lock-in and the pension will be taxed at the hands of investor. Currently Senior Citizen Savings Scheme(SCSS)  provides a better proposition with Investment of upto 15 lakhs, 5 Years lock-in at a interest rate of 8.4%. While the SCSS interest rates are variable in nature and linked to Government Security Yields (GSec), the probability of this rate going down further is limited.
So, the recommendation would be to exhaust the 15 Lakhs limit in SCSS before investing in this LIC Pension Scheme

<Blog # PenguWIN 1053 – For the benefit of Senior Citizens>

Opportunity in Debt Mutual Funds – II

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How does Debt Funds work and where do they invest?

Debt Fund’s source of returns are interest income and capital appreciation. Capital appreciation is unique to debt funds which is generated through trading of securities.

Investors need to be aware that in Debt funds price is inversely proportional to Interest Rate and Yield. i.e. when interest rates go down, the value or price of the security goes up. Yield in simple terms is the interest paid on the current price of the bond. For a 10% interest rate (coupon) bond with face value of 1000, if the interest rates in the market decreases and price increases to 1100/-, then the yield would be Rs. 100 upon 1100, the current price resulting in a value of 9.1%.

In a decreasing interest rate scenario like the current one where the RBI rates have fallen, bond funds and gilt funds (government bonds) tend to do well. When the reverse happens, then the fund value goes down which means right entry and exits point are required for medium to long term debt funds that rely on capital appreciation

Debt Funds invest in the following instruments depending of their category:

Treasury bills (T-Bills) – Short term instruments issued by RBI on behalf of Government to meet short term requirements of funds

CBLO – This instrument is used for lending and borrowing from overnight to 14 days against collateral of debt securities, similar to call money market

Certificate of deposits (CDs) – this is similar to fixed deposits where the Bank issues certificates to Mutual Funds which they can hold until maturity or trade

Commercial Paper (CPs) – This is similar to company deposits where companies issue these instruments for their short term funding requirements

G-Secs – These are government securities issued by RBI for periods of 1 to 30 years. The 10 year G-Sec is used as a benchmark and the yield on 6.97 %( coupon or interest rate) G-Secs maturing in 2026 is quoting at 6.23

Corporate Bonds and Debentures – Debt instruments issued by corporates for various time periods (Maturity dates). Rating agencies (CRISIL, CARE, ICRA etc.) assess these instruments and provide a rating.

Liquidity and Flexibility

The short term debt instruments like Liquid Funds and Ultra Short Term funds have high liquidity as the securities that they invest have short maturity. Both these products do not have exit load (A few Ultra Short Term do have small exit load). These are excellent alternatives to Savings Bank and short term FDs and in the current scenario, has the potential to deliver returns higher than even long term Bank FDs. The flexibility that these funds offer is such that the redemption proceeds are credited to the investor’s bank A/c’s the next business day. Unlike FDs where the interests paid increases by tenure and when the deposits are prematurely surrendered have a penalty clause, the returns provided by Liquid and Ultra Short funds are almost linear which means if the fund yields say 8% for a year, even if an investor stays in the fund for just one week, they would get similar returns.

Taxation of Debt Funds

Debt funds have a favourable tax treatment over traditional Postal, Bank and Company fixed deposits.

Debt funds invested in growth plan for less than 3 years (Short Term Capital Gains is applicable) are taxed at the slab rate of the investor and the treatment is no different from traditional deposits. However, if the investor chooses dividend option, the fund house pays dividend distribution tax (DDT) at the rate of 28.84% on the corpus assigned for the dividend and the net balance post DDT tax is provided as dividends to the investors, which are tax free. This option works better for people above the 10L tax slab where the tax rate is about 31%. However, the dividend option is not ideal for investors in 10% and 20% tax slabs.

When a debt fund investor chooses the growth option and remains invested for greater than 3 years (Long Term Capital Gains), Indexation benefit (Cost Inflation Index) is applicable to them and only the difference between the indexed cost of investment and the current value is taxed @20%, irrespective of the tax slab of the investor. This is an excellent incentive for investors to consider debt funds rather than traditional products. The following illustration gives a picture of how it works. The CII (Cost Inflation Index) is published every year by Finance Ministry and CBIT (Central Board of Income Tax) and the value for FY16-17 is 1125

Tax Benefit Illustration

Credit Risk

Credit risk refers to the risk of the debt issuer defaulting on interest and/or principal payments. Other than Government securities all other debt products are exposed to Credit Risk. The Rating agencies (CRISIL, CARE, ICRA etc.) assess the Credit profile of these instruments and provide a rating. Typically, the lower rated securities offer higher interest rates and higher rated securities offer comparatively lower interest.

Debt Funds Ready Reckoner

The following table can be considered as a ready reckoner for the various categories of debt Fund, recommended tenure, risk rating (as mandated by SEBI) & average returns for different time frames. Risk Rating is a visual Risk profile of the fund with 5 levels including Low, Moderately Low, Moderate, Moderately High, and High.

Debt funds Ready Reckoner

The returns for 3 months period is absolute and for 1 year and 3 years, its annualized. Investors are requested to start investing in Debt MFs by taking exposure to Liquid and Ultra Short Term funds which have the least risk profile  

Every investment that we make comes with a risk & return profile and so are Debt MFs. The risks need to be understood and allocation to various asset classes needs to be done so as to maximize returns with minimum risk to ones Portfolio

 <Blog # PenguWIN 1045 – Opportunity in Debt Mutual Funds – II>

Opportunity in Debt Mutual Funds – Alternative to Bank and Postal Deposits

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           Many investors carry a wrong notion that Mutual Funds is all about Equity/Stock investing. But the reality is as on 30th Sep 2016, data from AMFI (Association of Mutual Funds in India) says investments in Equity MFs is 5 Lakh Crores Vs 11 Lakh Crores. i.e. Only 31% of the funds are invested in Equity and the rest 69% are in Debt Funds. Since the content required for this blog is high, I have split it as Part I and II and once I is read, interested readers can look for more details in Part II.

In Financial parlance, Debt is an amount of money borrowed by one party from another, under the condition that it is to be paid back at a later date, usually with interest.

The common debt products that we are aware of are Bank Deposits, Postal Deposits, Tax Free Bonds, Capital Gains Bonds, Sovereign Gold Bonds, Company deposits (Shriram, HDFC). Even our monthly Employee provident Fund (EPF), Public Provident Fund (PPF), National Pension Scheme (NPS), Senior Citizens Deposits are all Debt products. Some of the above products are sovereign debt, which means that the Government stands guarantee and there is no question of losing money.    

Since mid-2015, the interest rates offered by banks have been steadily falling and in July 2015, SBI Fixed deposit breached the 8% interest level and moved below. Interest rates are a function of demand and supply for credit and the RBI Interest rate (Repo) has been falling down (currently 6.25%). The RBI had a mandate to tame inflation which worked as Consumer Price Inflation (CPI) fell to 5%. As a result of this the interest rate offered by Bank and Postal Deposits went down.

Before I dwell into Risk Vs Returns of Debt Mutual Funds, I wanted to clarify a couple of points.

Bank Fixed Deposits are Riskier when compared to Sovereign instruments (PPF, KVP, GSec.).

Company deposits (HDFC, Shriram, Bajaj Finance etc.) are Riskier when compared to Bank Deposits.

The chances that any Scheduled commercial bank (Public Sector, Private and Foreign Banks) will go bust in India is extremely low. There were cases like Global Trust Bank which was affected a decade ago, but the government intervened and Oriental Bank of Commerce acquired GTB

Similarly Deposits of companies like HDFC, Shriram, Bajaj Finance, DHFL are “AAA” rated by rating agencies which gives comfort to the investor. ‘HDFC’ brand is so powerful and some investors are happy investing in HDFC deposits (which is used by them for housing finance) rather than relatively less known banks like Catholic Syrian.

As an alternative to the Bank, Postal and Company deposits is where Debt Mutual Funds come in. Debt Funds offer a large category of products, with varying risk and return levels, providing flexibility, incremental returns and favourable tax treatment. They are categorised under different tenure (few days, months, years), Accrual and Duration funds, Liquid, Ultra Short Term, Short Term, Long Term, Income Funds, Gilt funds (Funds that hold Government Securities and also referred as duration funds).

When we are willing to take a small amount of risk in the traditional products for incremental returns, the same applies to debt mutual funds. Again, the point to consider is diversification and asset allocation. It does not make sense to invest all the debt allocation in MFs and we do need the stability of Sovereign products, Bank and Postal deposits. Allocation to MFs will provide the additional kicker to increase the overall debt portfolio returns.

For the next level of insight into Debt Mutual Funds please click the link below:

Opportunity in Debt Mutual Funds – II

<Blog # PenguWIN 1044 – Opportunity in Debt Mutual Funds – I>