All posts by Aditya

IRFC Tax Free Bonds Open Today!!

IRFC (Indian Railway Finance Corporation) Tax Free Bonds have opened today and are probably the last TAX FREE bond issue for the year. There is no provision in the budget for 2016-17 for any tax free bonds and any new issue in the next year is extremely unlikely.

Additionally, this is the only issue in 2016 to date for which NRI’s are eligible.

Salient features:

Issue Date – 10th Mar to 14th Mar

Issue Size – Rs. 2450 Crore, of which 60% is reserved for retail investors ~ 1470 crore rupee

Eligibility – both NRI’s and residents

Coupon Rate – yearly interest rate of 7.29% for its 10-year option and 7.64% for the 15-year option to the retail investors investing less than or equal to Rs. 10 lakh

Rating – AAA from CRISIL, ICRA and CARE

There is a very high likely hood that the issue will get oversubscribed in the Retail segment on day one, anyone looking to invest should make an application today.

The current SGD to INR exchange rate is 48.20 offered by DBS Remit. I just made my application and would be looking for capital gains of appx. 15-20% on these bonds over the next 2 years.

 

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Tax Free Bonds: Better than NRE FD’s

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Yes, you read it right! Tax free bonds are better than NRE Fixed deposits.

After all these years of recommending NRE FD’s as the safest bet for investing in India, I am changing my recommendation to Tax free bonds (in no particular order) by IREDA, NHAI, NABARD, REC and HUDCO.

Lets compare the bonds to the NRE deposit

1. NRE Fixed usually give the highest rate for a lock in of 2 or 3 years and are averaging between 7.8% to 8.2%, which means that the reinvestment on maturity would be at the prevailing interests rates.
2. NRE deposits have a penalty in case of pre mature withdrawal
3. Interest on NRE deposits is tax free

A Tax free bond on the other hand is giving a 7.64% for a period of 15 years (NABARD which opens tomorrow – 9th Mar 2016) in retail category (less than 10 lacs) or half a percent lesser for amounts exceeding 10 lacs.

You must be wondering why am I recommending the bonds when they give lesser interest and are tax free like the NRE FD? The Central Bank interest rates across the world are going down and India has already had a few rate cuts which makes these Bonds attractive. As the interest rates will be reduced the value of these bonds will increase (capital appreciation) . These bonds are more liquid than a FD as they are traded on the stock exchanges which means that one can sell the bond without incurring pre mature withdrawal penalty in case of FD. Further for a slightly lesser interest rate these bonds let you lock in a higher interest rate for next 15 years.

If this has not convinced you then let me tell you the most important reason why I am recommending these bonds – interest on NRE FD’s becomes taxable if a NRI returns to India. Depending on the individual residency criteria in section  6 of the Income Tax of India on return a NRI becomes a Tax Resident in 6 months to 2 years, upon which the NRE accounts are converted to a Resident Rupee Account, which means that any interest that accrues on your NRE account after you become tax resident becomes taxable.

These bonds on the other hand assure tax free income for next 15 years from the date of allotment.

Now the fine print – not all bonds are open to NRI’s for investment, however if you have a resident bank / brokerage account you could use that to apply for these bonds and / or purchase them from open market and benefit from capital gains and long term tax free interest income.

You would be “Out of Money” 80% of days if you transferred money to India in 2015

The last few days of Chinese New year holidays allowed me to spend some time on SGD INR analysis. I always had a feeling that transferring money to Indian specially with a view to play on the interest rate differential would not have been beneficial in the last year and I had to test my feeling against some actual numbers.

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I took the average investable Tax Free NRE FD rate as 8% and cost of transferring money as 1%. The interest that someone could earn in Singapore was taken as average of 2% (DBS Multiplier, OCBC 360, UOB One or some money market funds) which brought the effective interest rate differential as 6% (8% – 2%).

There might be a few of you who could have got slightly better NRE FD rates and also managed a better transfer rate, however in my observation banks or transfer services usually charge anywhere between 0.8% to 1.5% as remittance fee. This fee could be charged as a out right fee or built into the exchange rate that they offer you. Similarly I took the cost of transferring money back from India as 1% as well though people tell me it can be close to 2%. I have personally never transferred money from India so just went in with the 1% charge.

The result of number crunching vindicated my gut feel  – there were only  39 days in 2015 (around 11%) which provided a better return if someone transferred money to India, invested in NRE FD and transferred it back to Singapore as compared to keeping money in Singapore and starting to transfer to India once SGD INR crossed 47.50.

Interestingly of those 39 days 12 were in Jan 2015 and remaining between 24th April to 22 May and few in mid June.

The number of days went up to 62 (around 20%) if the person decided to leave money in India instead of bringing it back but the period of transfer remained in first half of the year.

Anyone who panicked and transferred money since July would be “out of money” based on today’s DBS remittance rate of 48.50 (Market rate around 48.90).

Of-course the rates can and will change in the coming days and a few more days of 2015 might become “In the money” but I would rather transfer around 48 than at 46 – it translates to gains of around 5%.

SGD INR 2015

 

 

SGD INR crosses 48!

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The SGD strengthened to 1.4150 against USD overnight and that has pushed SGD INR to 48.02 mark. I am expecting INR to strengthen when the Indian markets open around 11:30 am Singapore time.

If you are looking to transfer money today then the next 2 hours is a good time using DBS Remit. The offered rate is 47.57 and is expected to fall down once the Indian markets open.

Disclaimer: These are my views and not investment/financial advice. I bear no responsibility for any decisions made by readers.

SGD INR stuck in a range?

Its been a few months since I wrote about the pair as most of the discussions were in comments to previous posts, but today’s MAS decision warranted a new post.

There were ripe speculations that MAS is going to ease the monetary policy (which it did) and Singapore is headed for a technical recession. The economy expanded by a modest 0.1% much against the consensus of a contraction of 0.1%. The immediate impact on the exchange rate was a modest gain from 1.4025 overnight to 1.3960 as I write.

One would question that why has SGD strengthened even though the policy has been slightly eased? There are various factors at play:

  1. The expectations of a USD rate increase this year are negligible. I would be surprised if the Fed raised the rates in Dec when the volumes are thin due to holiday season. My personal view is that it was a missed opportunity in Sep and Fed should have increased the rates but that’s a different topic of discussion.
  2. SGD had fallen all the way to 1.43 in anticipation of easing, but recovered slowly over the past week with rest of the regional currencies. If one looks at the bigger picture then Indonesian Rupiah has appreciated by around 9% against the USD and Malaysian Ringgit has firmed up by around 6% in past 10 days. The key words for me from the MAS policy statement is “slow the pace of local dollar’s gain”

MAS will continue with the policy of a modest and gradual appreciation of the Singapore Dollar Nominal Effective Exchange Rate (S$NEER) policy band. However, the rate of appreciation will be reduced slightly. There will be no change to the width of the policy band and the level at which it is centered, saying it would seek to slow the pace of the local dollar’s gains versus its trading partners.

Both Malaysia and Indonesia are key trading partners for Singapore and a greater than 5% jump in their currencies diluted any chance of SGD depreciation. The intent of MAS Is clear – it wants SGD to be slightly stronger than its trading partners.

Now if one looks at INR it appreciated very quickly in after the US job reports from the comfort that no fed hike is on the cards. It was good news for FII’s who can pump money in Indian Bonds and earn good interest rate. Many mistake this as FII investment in India because if one looks at the economic indicators they don’t look very good – be it industrial production. agriculture produce or job growth.

I have said this many times and would repeat again – the sooner INR falls towards 70 the better it is for India. The Indian exports are declining due to competition from other countries with weaker currencies and the day fed hikes the interest rate INR could dip 2-3% overnight and that is not a pleasant shock for the economy.

Anyway for now no major events are scheduled in the coming months other that the results of the BIHAR elections. I believe irrespective of the outcome the Rupee is scheduled to fall post-election results. If BJP wins there would be a knee jerk appreciation which will fizzle out as the economic data and realities will take center stage. If BJP looses then Rupee would immediately fall from a sentiment perspective.

So for the next few weeks I expect SGD INR to be range bound between 46-48.

Best options to Transfer Money from Singapore to India

With the jump in SGD INR the question of what is the best way to transfer money to India becomes important and has been asked a few times. My conclusion before today’s analysis was that DBS remit gives the best rates with the smoothest transaction experience. However in such a competitive market innovations and better pricing is expected and ICICI Bank with its new offering beats competition by a mile.

At the time of comparison the Spot SGD INR was 47.75 and below table shows how the 3 services which offer confirmed Rate transfer compared:

Service 3000 5000 10000 15000 20000
Money2India 47.18 47.35 47.48 47.52 47.54
DBS Remit 47.22 47.22 47.22 47.22 47.22
SBI Remit 47.3 47.3 47.3

As you can see for amounts 5000 SGD or more money2india had a substantially better rate than the competition and that happens because they have started charging 25SGD flat fee and reduced currency spreads. The rate money2india used was 47.66 and the results above are shows after taking the 25sgd fee and service charges into account.

Ofcourse the rates offered by money2india would change throughout the day but for transferring amounts greater than 5000 this would be my service of choice (the only other way to get a better rate is if you can find someone who wants SGD and would give you INR and deal at spot)

Couple of things to Note for Money2India transfer Service

1. Only allows upto 400,000 Rs equivalent to be transferred per day using the fixed rate service.

2. The rate is updated around 12:00 noon Singapore time

3.  Has a internal daily limit i.e. if the amount they have allocated for a day has been reached customers are refused transfers

I would have expected that there be no limit on amounts being transferred. With these limits it feels that money2india wants to only have small transactions so that they can earn more transfer fee. The rate still is better than DBS but as a customer I find these limits back door way of giving less to customers.

Update: Money2India no longer has fixed fee transfer service and the rates offered are not as good as SBI or DBS. For comparison of rates please refer to the widget on right or at the bottom (when using a phone)

MAS Holds Off Easing and SGD jumps…

As expected, MAS held off any more easing as the GDP numbers were better than expected, SGD quickly jumped back to below 1.36 and I expect it to go below 1.35 in days to come.

There are 2 very interesting and informative info graphics that were published in Business Times on 12th and 13th April that I am sharing with every one who are interested to know how does NEER work and monetary policy is administered.

Billion SGD question How Policy Works

Indian Rupee is Overvalued and Chief Economic advisor agrees!!

Rupee is Overvalued and should depreciate – something I have been saying for 3-4 months now but for lack of time had not been able to do some research and share with everyone my thoughts behind the my assertion.

Reading the newspaper today I read Chief economic advisor Arvind Subramanian’s view as told to Economic Times,

“I think we have to be opportunistic, when there is a chance to allow it to drift down maybe a little bit it drift down but when lot of capital is coming in intervene to keep it stable,” Subramanian had said. “I agree that there is a part of the community out there that wants a strong exchange rate, but that would be very detrimental to our exports”

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/foreign-trade/government-hopes-rupee-reflects-its-true-value-finance-minister-arun-jaitley/articleshow/46695530.cms

The rupee has been stable against the dollar but has appreciated against a basket of currencies, severely effecting the exports competitiveness. India’s exports declined for third month running in February. Rupee has appreciated 22.4% against the euro in the current financial year. On a trade-weighted basis, and after adjusting for inflation, in February rupee was the rupee was over 24% overvalued against a basket of currencies of India’s six largest trade partners.

The below table shows the performance of Indian currency against major currencies and the Rupee has strengthened against every currency other than USD and Chinese Yuan, the direct impact of this strengthening is that exports to these countries be it Software, Services or Goods all become less competitive

INR comparitive chart 2015Now lets look at the competition – Countries that export goods and services to the nations above –  big ones being Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, Russia, South Africa and the currency of all these countries have depreciated against Indian Rupee giving an advantage to competition.

INR Comparitive Chart 2015 2I think it’s a perfect time for India to weaken the Rupee while Oil remains low to boost competitiveness of exports and fill up our foreign exchange reserves. At the same time build oil reserves so that even when oil prices move up we don’t have to strengthen the currency in tandem to prevent the outflow of petro dollars.

RBI Cuts Benchmark Rates – Now What?

The much talked about interest rate cut finally happened today. RBI Governor keeping true to his character surprised the markets with an earlier than expected cut taking India on a path different from Russia and Brazil where central banks have increased the benchmark rates in the past few weeks.

I must say it’s a brilliant move by the Governor to put the ball back into Finance Ministers court and push for structural fiscal reforms in the upcoming budget. The general sentiment has been that the higher rates are keeping India from growing which overshadows the fundamental issues of red tape, poor infrastructure and wastage in public expenditure.

The sustained fall in oil prices (thank Russia for occupying Crimea) has given India the much-needed window to push through reforms without being worried about stroking uncontrolled inflation.

The question is that will this rate cut and structural reforms be enough to achieve the targeted growth? No, absolutely not. The other key factor, which should not be ignored, is the exchange rate of the rupee against other currencies. To recap the last year – Rupee has oscillated between 58 and 63.5 against the US dollar (I use USD as a benchmark because the other rates are nothing but a cross rate). The fall in rupee has been less pronounced as compared to its Asian peers like the Malaysian Ringgit, Indonesian Rupiah, Singapore Dollar, Korean Won etc. On the global front, the Yen, Euro and Pound have also dropped sharply against the USD resulting in net gains by the Rupee against these currencies as well.

While the gains in Rupee boost the feel good factor about the India story – is a sustained gain in Rupee the right thing for the Indian economy? My take is that RBI would not let Rupee gain beyond the 62 mark to keep the exports competitive. There was evidence of this when RBI was seen buying dollars in the last week when Rupee gained sharply. With a generally weaker Rupiah, Ringgit, Peso and Riel the Indian exports would face tough competition in areas like garments, IT services, food grains and other manufacturing. Also with Euro and Pound weakening the demand from European countries would decline if the goods are not priced competitively.

With crude oil staying below 50, I think RBI would target the Rupee around 65 against the USD (at-least that’s would I would do, if I were the RBI governor). That would be a roughly 5% decline from the current levels and will bring it at par with other countries with export competitiveness. A sharp gain in the currency would negate any benefit that the lower oil prices would have and I don’t think the RBI or the finance minister would want that.

We should not forget that infrastructure reforms do not happen overnight and take years to fully have the desired impact.

What would that do to SGD INR – 45 mark would remain as the strong support for the pair with upside of Rs.50, but of-course remitting money to India and investing in NRE deposits would always remain a good option.