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Focus of Monetary Policy is Now Conclusively on Ensuring Better Transmission

As per our estimates, the so-called ‘core' system liquidity (total banking liquidity minus government balances) is around Rs 65,000 crore

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Monetary, Policy, Transmission
It thus seems reasonable to infer, in the absence of an official framework on liquidity ‘targets', that the RBI will want to ensure sustained liquidity surpluses of this magnitude going forward as well. Pixabay

The focus of monetary policy is now conclusively on ensuring better transmission. Towards this, for the first time in recent history the RBI has consciously moved liquidity stance to positive. Indeed, the Governor has lately referred to the Rs 1-1.5 lakh crore positive system liquidity as a comfort factor and facilitator for banks.

It thus seems reasonable to infer, in the absence of an official framework on liquidity ‘targets’, that the RBI will want to ensure sustained liquidity surpluses of this magnitude going forward as well.

The micro aspects:
As per our estimates, the so-called ‘core’ system liquidity (total banking liquidity minus government balances) is around Rs 65,000 crore as on early August. Assuming currency in circulation (CIC) seasonality of last year and superimposing a nominal growth rate to this, the system will lose around Rs 2,20,000 crore from here to March 2020.

Monetary, Policy, Transmission
The focus of monetary policy is now conclusively on ensuring better transmission. Pixabay

Adding back a higher RBI dividend and some balance of payment accretions, we are largely left with zero core liquidity by end of the financial year. However given the RBI’s current liquidity preference, we would assume they would want core liquidity to be at least be in surplus by a similar magnitude as today. This means that one should reasonably expect further open market operation (OMO) bond purchases from the RBI of at least Rs 65,000-75,000 crore between now and end of the financial year.

A further implication of this is that domestic net government bond supply between October and March is largely agnostic to whether the government decides to do a foreign currency sovereign bond issue or not. This is assuming that say $10 billion raised by government from offshore sovereign bonds would have been entirely converted by RBI into rupee liquidity. Thus the need for OMOs would have fallen to that extent.

Refreshing a table we had done in an earlier note, the Rs 70,000 crore assumed for the sovereign bond issue may just end up getting replaced as RBI OMO should the bond issue not happen.

While on the subject, one has to comment on the conceptual fallacy in the criticism often levied towards RBI’s OMOs as being monetisation of government deficit. Assuming an unwillingness to cut Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR), the only two other tools for policy driven liquidity creation is purchase of forex or bonds. Long term repos are no solution since this is ‘borrowed’ and not permanent liquidity.

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Given that purchase of forex is a function of flows that the RBI doesn’t directly influence, it has to resort to purchase of bonds for discretionary enhancements in core liquidity. Now, if this were being done much beyond the requirements of liquidity creation for the explicit purpose of supporting the bond issuance program or was systematically tied to the quantum of such program or didn’t display two-way directionality, then one could have legitimately argued for backdoor monetisation.

However, there is no evidence of this as well. Thus, any impact from OMOs has to be treated as largely an unavoidable cost of policy implementation just as other tools affect other market variables.

The macro aspects:
As can be seen, after the disruption from the global financial crisis (GFC) had subsided, the ratio of broad money (M3) as proportion of quarterly GDP had largely settled in a range. This broke lower post demonetisation, but hasn’t reverted still to its previous range. This is despite the well acknowledged growth slowdown that has now been underway for some time.

Monetary, Policy, Transmission
Towards this, for the first time in recent history the RBI has consciously moved liquidity stance to positive. Indeed, the Governor has lately referred. Pixabay

After largely tracking nominal GDP growth rates between 2012 and 2015, M3 growth had started to fall below GDP growth from early 2016, even before demonetisation. It is only very recently that M3 growth has been catching back with nominal GDP.

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It can be argued that a necessary ask from monetary policy in response to the broad-based slowdown is for a higher rate of money supply growth than what has been in the recent few years. Indeed, that seems to have been the case also in the ‘golden’ growth period of 2005 – 2008, where M3 growth was much above nominal GDP growth. Assuming no changes to the money multiplier, this implies a higher pace of expansion in RBI’s balance sheet, including through more aggressive purchases of domestic bonds. (IANS)

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Here are the Growth, Monetary Policy, and Bond Market Aspects of Unexpected Corporate Tax Cuts

Further, it has resisted an easy consumption stimulus which may have had very little multiplier effects and possibly may have eventually contributed

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Growth, Monetary, Policy
With this the government has shown a clear commitment to shore up growth even with its back against the wall, fiscally speaking. Pixabay

The unexpected corporate tax cuts alongside previous measures announced over the last few days by the government amount to a total fiscal expansion of around 0.8 per cent of GDP at face value. That said, private estimates in this regard are between 0.2 – 0.4 per cent shy of the governments estimate.

Here are the growth, monetary policy, and bond market aspects of the move:

Growth
With this the government has shown a clear commitment to shore up growth even with its back against the wall, fiscally speaking. Further, it has resisted an easy consumption stimulus which may have had very little multiplier effects and possibly may have eventually contributed to some macro-economic imbalances. Rather, the tax cuts will help improve corporate profits and hopefully improve our global competitiveness. Further, incentives for new units announced may also help with attracting some of the global supply chains reallocations that are underway given escalating trade tensions.

Growth, Monetary, Policy
The unexpected corporate tax cuts alongside previous measures announced over the last few days by the government amount to a total fiscal expansion of around 0.8 per cent of GDP at face value. Pixabay

This may, however, not necessarily be a substantial shot in the arm for near-term growth prospects. The tax cuts may be used in a variety of ways, including stepping up investments, reducing debt, cutting product prices, increasing salaries, buyback and dividends, among others.

All told, the immediate pass-through and growth impulses created may be not as strong and thus the tax buoyancy hoped for on the back of stronger growth may have to wait for a while. This is especially true as general competitiveness in an increasingly challenging world requires other aspects of factor input efficiencies to fall in place as well.

Monetary policy
Prima facie, if, unlike earlier expectation of limited further space, fiscal policy has indeed chosen to step up to the plate, then monetary policy need not be as aggressive, all else being equal. That said, the global and local context is weak enough to argue for yet some (though not substantial) incremental role for monetary easing. This is especially true because RBI Governor Das doesn’t appear to be as large a fiscal hawk, currently (indeed welcoming the bold step from the government, after observing one day prior that fiscal space seemed limited).

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We would hence look for monetary “teasing” incrementally, as opposed to “easing” that we were expecting before and would expect the repo rate to bottom out in the 5 to 5.25 per cent area. The one caveat to this view is of further global growth deterioration which would then open up room for further easing, whereas liquidity policy is expected to remain one of substantial surplus.

Bonds
As noted, before term spreads have been quite wide for this part of the cycle, largely reflecting the inadequate availability of risk capital versus the supply of bonds (the same inadequacy is being reflected as higher credit spreads in the loan and credit market).

Despite more than adequate liquidity now, risk capital has been cautious possibly due to lack of confidence on market risk, given the fiscal and bond supply overhang. Since a large term premium has already existed, we wouldn’t expect a significant further expansion just because the risk has now materialized.

Growth, Monetary, Policy
That said, private estimates in this regard are between 0.2 – 0.4 per cent shy of the governments estimate. Pixabay

Further we don’t expect the entire expansion to manifest in the Centre’s fiscal deficit. After sharing this with states and accounting for other levers built in, we are looking for a final fiscal deficit of 3.7 nper cent versus the 3.3 per cent budgeted. This will entail some additional bond supply eventually, but with the cushion that the Centre’s net bond supply was slated to fall substantially in the second half of the year versus the first.

Portfolio Strategy
With the prospects of monetary easing somewhat diminishing in incremental intensity, and accounting for the somewhat higher bond supply, we may expect some amount of curve steepening going forward. This may likely happen as market participants anchor themselves to 3 thoughts: One, liquidity will remain abundantly surplus. Two, repo rate is here or modestly lower. Three, prospects of a very large bond rally are somewhat diminished (although this view will evolve going forward depending also on how much net additional supply actually manifests for local absorption) . This will likely increase appeal for the front end of the curve versus the longer duration, hence creating steepening pressure.

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Reflecting the above thought, we have cut our recent duration elongation into the 10-14 year segment and are now refocussing on being overweight 5-7 year for government bonds in our active duration funds. For AAA corporate bonds, the relative value continues in up to 5 years. These segments could better align to what remains an environment of abundant surplus liquidity, a very attractive term spread, still general lack of credit growth, and continued global monetary easing. (IANS)