After a few hikes in marginal cost-based funding rate (MCLR) by some banks in past two months, banks first raised the rates on bulk deposits.
The largest public sector bank in India – State Bank of India – has decided to increase the interest rate payable on retail deposits, followed by an increase in MCLR (marginal cost of funds-based lending rate) – the rate charged on loans – by up to 20 basis points. As the largest lender revises its interest rates, should you be worried about your financial plan?
Before getting into corrective measures and means to exploit the rate action, you should spend a minute understanding why rates have gone up.
“Towards the end of the financial year, the liquidity in the market has gone down. The banks are keen to raise money. The rates are hiked as a lagged response to the rising bond yields,” said Mahendra Kumar Jajoo, head – fixed income, Mirae Asset Management.
For the uninitiated, the benchmark 10-year bond yield has moved up to 7.78 percent from a low of 6.18 percent on December 7, 2016.
Banks typically take time to raise their fixed deposit rates. After a few hikes in MCLR by some banks in past two months, banks first raised the rates on bulk deposits. Now interest rates on retail fixed deposits are being hiked. This is a sign of relief for most fixed deposit investors who were forced to consider investing in the volatile stock markets through mutual funds.
Though the interest rate hike on fixed deposits is good news for conservative investors, one should not expect fireworks in the form of aggressive rate hikes in near future.
“As of now, the liquidity tightening is the cause of the fixed deposit rate hikes. RBI has maintained its neutral stance on the monetary issues. This may change to hawkish over next six months,” said Joydeep Sen, founder of wiseinvestor.in, a Mumbai-based wealth management firm.
Though the interest rates are set to go up and others are expected to follow SBI, the process of rate hikes will be gradual. “Bank fixed deposit investors may see higher rates over next six to twelve months. You can consider opting for six months to one year fixed deposits and rolling it over at higher rates when they mature,” Sen advised.
Rising interest rates, however, ring alarm bells for both bond fund investors and borrowers. The increase in yield suppresses the prices of bonds and thereby hurts investors in bond funds as net asset values of the bond funds go down. The recent spike in bond yields has taken a heavy toll on bond funds. Long-term gilt funds lost 2.1 percent over past three months, on an average.
The prevalent bond yields are a result of the market discounting RBI’s hawkish stance one year down the line, according to experts. Although opinions are divided on the extent of a further surge in yields, there seems to be a consensus when it comes to volatility in the bond market.
If you are not comfortable with the volatility, you should stay away from long-term bond funds and income funds that invest in longer-term paper.
“Short-term bond funds are good investment option at this juncture as they invest in bonds maturing in two to three years, where the yields are attractive,” said Jajoo. If you are comfortable with some amount of volatility and expect a sideways move in yields, you may consider investing in income funds and dynamic bond funds.
While fixed-income investors see a mixed bag in the rising interest rate regime, borrowers, especially those on floating rate liabilities, are expected to see tough times ahead. The banking sector is undergoing a situation of extreme pressure on margins due to an increase in non-performing assets like never before.
The rise in yields and fixed deposit rates will ensure that banks will be forced to raise their MCLR. This will result in an increase in the floating rate for home loan borrowers. For example, if you have a Rs 50 lakh home loan for 15 years and the rate is hiked to 8.45 percent from 8.25 percent, then the EMI changes to Rs 49,090 from Rs 48,507, an increase of Rs 583. You may ascertain the possible impact on you using EMI calculator.
“Other banks will definitely follow the MCLR hike action of SBI. The rates on home loans may be hiked by the end of this month or in early April,” said Sukanya Kumar, founder of RetailLending.com.
Banks may postpone their rate hikes to attract home loan volumes and close the financial year with good numbers. But home loan borrowers should be prepared to pay higher EMIs in the near future.
Rates will be revised depending on the MCLR time frame. For example, if your home loan is linked to 6-month MCLR, you can expect rates to change after six months from the last reset. The 6-month MCLR prevalent at that time will be applicable to your home loan at the time of reset.
If interest rates continue their journey northward, cash flows do change for you. Account for them well in advance to ensure that you do not get caught off guard.