RBI Monetary Policy: RBI cuts repo rate; maintains stance as neutral

RBI Monetary Policy: RBI cuts repo rate; maintains stance as neutral
04/04/2019

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) concluded its meeting on 04th April and announced a 25 basis point cut in the repo rates, largely along expected lines. This is the second consecutive rate cut from RBI under new chief Shaktikanta Das, after a 25 bps rate cut in February. The RBI opted for a mix of rate cuts to easy liquidity and address the issue of credit off-take. Here are the highlights.

  • Repo rate was cut by 25 basis points to 6% with a vote of 4:2 in favour of a rate cut by the MPC members. This also brings down the reverse repo rate and the bank rate proportionately by 25 bps each.

  • The MPC has maintained the stance as “Neutral”, keeping the option open to move either way if the situation warranted. MPC members voted in the ratio of 5:1.

  • On the liquidity front, the RBI will continue with its average monthly OMO (Open Market Operations) infusion of Rs40,000cr. This is now being accompanied by monthly dollar swap auctions to the tune of USD5 billion to address the liquidity shortfall.

Macro-economic background to the rate cut decision

Like in the previous monetary policy in February, the MPC has voted to continue focusing on growth impulses. This is considering the weak global growth; downgraded by IMF to the tune of 20 bps. In addition, domestic growth in GDP is likely to be pegged at 7% this year and 7.2% next year due to weak manufacturing growth. When RBI cut the policy rates by 25 bps in February, transmission was weak due to liquidity shortfall. That is the reason, the RBI has made sure to synchronize rate cuts with liquidity infusion. Apart from OMOs and dollar swaps, the RBI has also relaxed the High Quality Liquid Assets (HQLA) component in NDTL by 200 bps to make more liquidity available for lending. The RBI’s believes this synchronized approach should work better.

Policy support beyond rates and liquidity

Efficacy of monetary policy is not only judged by its approach to rates and liquidity but also how it handles the supportive regulatory framework.

  • Since most of the problems of liquidity arose from the NBFC and the HFC segment, the RBI has initiated the task of speedy securitization of such receivables. A robust secondary market could go a long way.

  • With NCLT doing a wonderful job in the last few months, the RBI has supplemented by setting up a task force to create a secondary market for corporate loans. This will ensure liquidity and exit for lenders reducing risk.

  • The controversial external benchmarking for floating rate loans to retail customers and SMEs announced in the December policy has been put off, for now, considering practical constraints involved.

The minutes of the policy discussions are expected to be published on 18th April, which could set the tone for the next policy post elections on 06th June.

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The Difference Between Regular and Direct Mutual Fund

The Difference Between Regular and Direct Mutual Fund
01/09/2019

Browse through the NAVs of mutual funds either in the pink papers or the AMFI website and you will find that the same growth or dividend scheme of a mutual fund is subdivided into Regular plans and Direct Plans. Have you ever wondered what are these Direct Plans and Regular Plans? Let us check out a live NAV table first.

Date Source: AMFI

In the above table, you will find that the DSP Top 100 Equity Fund is subdivided into Direct Plan and Regular Plan. You will also find that the Direct Plan has a higher NAV compared to the Regular Plan. Before comparing Direct Plans and Regular Plans, let us briefly dwell on the brief history of Direct Plans.

A Brief History of Direct Plans

Prior to 2009, fund houses charged investors entry loads on mutual funds to cover selling and distribution costs. In August 2009, SEBI banned the collection of entry loads from mutual fund clients. However, the official model of Direct Plan came only from January 2013 when SEBI asked all fund schemes to classify into Direct Plans and Regular Plans.

Currently, funds are allowed to debit their annual expenses up to a ceiling of 2.25% of the AUM in case of equity funds to the fund NAV. This is called the Total Expense Ratio (TER). The fund does not bill the distribution and trail commission costs to Direct Plan investors. Hence, Direct Plans are subject to lower TERs and the NAV are higher. Here are three key points.

Direct Funds Have Lower Expense Ratio

The TER on Direct Plans is lower since the distribution and trail fees are not billed to them. However, there are other costs too in a mutual fund. Mutual funds have to incur operational costs, fund management fees, auditor fees, registrar charges, execution costs, statutory costs and brand expenses, among others. Even if you are holding a Direct Plan, these expenses will still be charged to you. It is only the distribution and trail commissions that are not billed to your NAV. In a typical equity fund the regular plans will have a TER of around 2.25% while the TER for a Direct Plan will be 60-70 bps lower. This cost saving each year enhances your return over the longer period of time.

Direct Plan Does Not Involve Any Intermediary

Direct Funds are simple in nature and the process of investing, especially through an online platform is easy as you do not deal with any intermediary. You can invest directly and make your own investment choice. Just ensure that the NAV in your statement actually reflects the Direct Plan NAV as available on the AMFI website.

Choose Direct Plans If You Can Make Financial Planning Decisions Independently

The common question is - who should opt for a Direct Plan. There are no hard and fast rules. If you are savvy enough to manage your financial planning and investments on your own, then you can consider Direct Plans. When you invest via Direct Plans you do not get the benefit of the advisory services of a broker or financial advisor. Hence, you need to make your choice of Direct Plan after due consideration. Ensure that you have the time and resources to make your financial planning decisions independently.

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How Can You Invest In Direct Mutual Funds?

How Can You Invest In Direct Mutual Funds?
01/09/2019

Direct plans of mutual funds enable the investor to save on costs. Direct Plan investors are not charged the distributor and trail commissions. For an average equity fund, this reduces the Total Expense Ratio by 60-70 basis points. This makes a big difference over longer periods.

The KYC process remains the same, irrespective of whether you opt for the Direct Plan or the Regular Plan. Also you have to register with the AMC or the aggregator once. The investor can either do a lump sum investment or follow SIP route through the Direct Plan. Once your SIP is registered as a Direct Plan, then it continues that way. You can convert a Regular Plan into a Direct Plan by writing to your fund. How do you invest in Direct Mutual Funds?

Direct Plan Investing Through AMCs

Walk into the nearest office or Investor Service Centre of the AMC of your choice. If you are a first time investor, then you will have to complete your KYC and you will be allotted a ‘Folio Number’. Once folio number is allotted, subsequent investments can be done online. Ensure that you specifically check the Direct Plan box in your application. The only challenge in this approach is that you will have to obtain a distinct folio number for each AMC.

Direct Plan Investing Through Fund Registrars

Registrars are the record keepers and folio managers of all mutual fund accounts. There are two key players viz. Karvy and CAMS. You can register with either registrar online to invest in Direct Plans. Of course, when you approach a registrar, you can only invest in funds for which they are the registrars. In fact, when you submit an application to your AMC, it is processed by the registrar only. So, this is an extension of the first method.

Leveraging MFUs and Fund Aggregators

Mutual Fund Utilities (MFU) or aggregators are an agnostic platform to invest in mutual funds. You will have to take a one-time registration and obtain a Common Account Number (CAN). Once the CAN is obtained, you can map all your existing folios to that particular CAN and they would be treated as Direct Funds. The advantage is that you don’t have to interface with multiple AMCs and the MFU aggregates and gives you requisite analytics for better decision making. The challenge is that you can only deal in the funds where the AMCs have tied up with the MFU. This platform is convenient and centralized.

Direct Plan Investing Through Investment Advisors, Online Direct Investment Portals

The challenge in the above 3 methods is that you still have to be self-driven. As an investor you need to take all the decisions including screening, selecting and ensuring that funds are in sync with your long term goals. One alternative is to go through on online platform of Registered Investment Advisor or through a Robo Advisor. These platforms provide investment recommendations to investors on the basis of certain details keyed in by the investor. 

Direct Plans Of Mutual Funds – How To Make The Choice?

Investing through Direct Plans requires that you are comfortable with a self-driven approach to investing in mutual funds. While mutual funds offer diversification and professional management, they are also exposed to the vagaries of the markets and macros. You must be confident to handle these gyrations. Ideally, Direct Plans are for investors who have the time, wherewithal and resources to spend in making investment decisions. Otherwise, you are better off opting for a Regular Plan and letting your broker advice you appropriately.
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5 Factors to Look at While Selecting a Stockbroker

5 Factors to Look at While Selecting a Stockbroker
01/10/2019

Today, there is an abundance of stockbrokers offering their premium services to individuals wanting to accumulate wealth through the financial markets. As such, it is vital to choose a good stockbroker who understands the investor’s financial goals and guides him/her towards substantial returns.

Investors of today have two choices when it comes to stockbrokers: the traditional stockbroker and the discount brokerages. Traditional brokers charge a certain percentage as a fee, which differs with the type and size of the transaction. These brokers also send out trading tips and research bytes to the clients.

Discount brokerages, on the other hand, offer the standard services but at a fixed (flat) cost, i.e. regardless of the type and size of the transaction. They, however, do not offer any trading expertise, i.e. they do not give out trading or stock tips nor do they provide any insights into a trade. As such, they are suitable for those who prefer to self-educate themselves and take independent decisions.

Considering these, an investor has to carefully think about his/her requirements as well as exercise caution when choosing a stockbroker.

Here are five factors that would help a new investor in selecting a stockbroker who understands the financial goals of the investor.

  1. Credibility

    It is vital to perform a thorough background check on the stockbroker before entrusting them with your life savings. Finding out how many years the stockbroker has been in business, how it has performed in the past, what do the clients say about the firm, and any other relevant questions. This will help the individual to know more about the broker.

  2. Minimum Balance

    Investors need to maintain a minimum balance in their stockbroking account, and hence, it is vital to inquire about the same. This amount varies from broker to broker, hence, investors should choose a broker who not only provides the best services, but also has a low minimum amount threshold so that it does not tax their monthly budget. Other than the minimum amount, there should also be ease of access when it comes to depositing and withdrawing funds. Typically, brokerage houses have tie-ups with local banks which lets investors access their funds at any time. Withdrawals normally take three days to reach the client’s account.

  3. Technological Expertise

    Brokers who constantly update their platforms with the latest technology are able to give a unique advantage to the investor. There are also able to match the evolving needs of the investors and educate them on new features and solutions. Choosing a broker who consistently provides a stable and steady platform to their clients is a must.

  4. Availability

    A broker should be available during stock market hours to execute orders without any lag or delay or to address any issues that may arise on their electronic platforms. An investor should also check the speed and the stability of the website/mobile applications, especially during peak hours, to ensure that the pages load quickly and easily as even a split second can lead to the investor losing out on a profitable trade.

  5. Transparency and Capability

Transparency and capability are also important parameters when looking for the perfect stockbroker. There are many ways in which brokers charge their clients. Hence, the client has to ensure that all charges involved are mentioned in a lucid and transparent manner while opening an account. This will help you avoid any hidden costs that brokers might impose later. Apart from this, a broker should also have strong business policies that maintain the quality of the business.

When it comes to the capability of the brokers, investors should make sure that the stockbroker and his team have a strong background and passion for trading in order to have a hassle-free experience. When the team is able, it largely influences the business practices and delivers a profitable outcome to its investors.

Choosing the right stockbroker is vital to trading as the investor is entrusting their life savings into the former’s care. If a stockbroker or his brokerage satisfies the above-mentioned criteria as well as provides real-time customer support, add-on financial services and, as a bonus, is interested in enhancing the client’s knowledge of the markets, then engaging with them is a wise decision.

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Do’s and Don’ts of Stock Market Investing for Beginners

Do's and Don'ts for beginners

With a trading account and demat account you are ready to trade. But if you are a beginner in the stock markets, then that is not all. You also need to keep a tab on some major do’s and don’ts before you venture into investing in the stock markets. Let us look at 10 such key dos and don’ts for investors.

10 important do’s and don’ts for investment beginners

Do’s are about doing the right things in the market when you are starting off on your investing journey while the don’ts are the ones to avoid. Here are ten such important dos and don’ts for investing beginners.

  1. Do your research before investing? Remember, research of a stock is not a rocket science and it is all about getting your research process right. Get comfortable reading the balance sheets and income statements of a company. Also read the Management Discussion and Analysis (MDA) of the stock you are planning to invest in.

  2. Start with your goals in mind. You must be clear about how much risk you are willing to take and how much risk you can afford to take. Your equity portfolio should be within the limits defined by your allocation. Always start with a plan.

  3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. That is age old wisdom and applies to investing as well. In technical parlance it is called diversification where you effectively spread your equity investments across sectors and themes so that your investment performance is not dependent on any one stock or sector.

  4. Take a long term view and cultivate that habit in the very beginning. It is futile to time the market. Not only that it is hard to consistently get the tops and bottoms of the market right but it hardly makes any difference to your eventual returns.

  5. Try to invest consistently and regularly instead of putting a large corpus in a stock of your choice. The advantage of being regular is that it instils discipline in your investment and also gives the added benefit of rupee cost averaging. That means; over time your average cost of investing comes down.

  6. Even through equity is about the long term, try to get bargains. Even if you are convinced about the long term prospects of Infosys, it makes a lot of business sense to buy at Rs.650 than at Rs.750. Quite often, a market correction creates salivating bargains. Use such corrections to add quality stocks at low prices.

  7. Divide your equity portfolio between core holdings and satellite holdings. Your core holdings are your long term investment portfolio and you don’t sell these stocks at every correction. On the other hand, the satellite portfolios are more of a trading portfolio where you look out for short to medium term opportunities in the market. Have a separate approach to both these types of stocks.

  8. Don’t ignore trading costs. Even if you are a long term investor, take at a close look at your costs. Your cost is not just about brokerage costs but there are a number of other costs too. There are statutory costs, exchange charges, demat AMC, DIS charges, demat and remat charges etc. All these need to be added to calculate your effective cost. Nowadays, it makes a lot of sense to opt for low-cost discount brokers who can give the same execution at a much lower cost.

  9. As a beginner, remember that quality always wins in the end. When we talk about quality we are talking about quality at a number of levels. Look at quality of earnings; more of the earnings must be coming from the core business. Look at profitability; the company must be earning more margins than the peer group. Take stock of asset turnover; it tells you how efficiently the business is using assets. At a qualitative level, prefer companies that have high standard of disclosure and transparency. Large caps or mid caps, this quality approach always works in your favour.

  10. Make effective use of technology and if you are a beginner then you better get used to it early. Ideally use the online trading platform; it gives you a lot more control over your trades. Also, if possible you can download the app on your smart phone which allows you to trade on the run. Get used to reading electronic contract notes and ledgers; they are a lot more convenient and environment friendly than printed stuff.

In an effort to chase stocks, investors tend to forget that investment success is a lot more about discipline than about skills or flair. It is in your hands to make your investments work in a systematic manner.

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What is ELSS Funds and How they are Helpful for Tax Savings?

What is ELSS Funds and How they are Helpful for Tax Savings?
03/12/2019

ELSS fund or Equity Linked Savings Scheme fund is a tax-saving scheme that derives their returns from the equity market. The ELSS funds come with a lock-in period of three years. The investor cannot withdraw from the ELSS scheme during this duration. The ELSS fund gives twin advantage of capital appreciation and tax benefits.

The ELSS funds are mostly open-ended mutual funds. They help the investor to save tax under the Section 80C, and the taxable deduction available for this investment is upto Rs.1,50,000. The ELSS funds are suitable to inculcate the habit of saving among investors as the lock-in period prohibits the withdrawal of the investment for three years.

The ELSS comes with a low investment threshold of Rs.500 and the investor need not make a one-time investment for ELSS.  They can opt for the Systematic Investment Plan(SIP) method where they will invest a pre-set amount on a specified date of every month or six months. Through the SIP method, the investor has the option to spread their investments over the year, and this saves the last minute rush for searching for investments that help in tax savings.

However, when the investors opt the method of SIP payment, they should be aware of the fact that every SIP payment is considered as a fresh investment and it has an individual locking period of three years. The ELSS funds are the only investment with a low lock-in period of three years when compared to other tax saving investments.

When calculating SIP for the ELSS investment, the investor has to make sure that their investments are spread over the year. The investor has to use this simple formula to arrive at their SIP calculation

The ELSS funds come with two options for Growth and Dividend. The investor can choose the option that aligns with financial goals.

Growth option:

In this option, the investment along with its profit is accumulated, and the total amount is paid to the investor at the end of the lock-in period with an option of reinvestment.

Dividend Option:

The dividend option comes with two choices of dividend payout and dividend reinvestment. In dividend payout, the investor will receive the payment of a dividend from time to time. In dividend reinvestment, the payout is reinvested, and it will be treated as a fresh investment with the benefit of a tax deduction

The tax saving feature of ELSS funds:

Under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act,1961 a tax payer can claim up to Rs.1,50,000 as relief against their investments. Under the new budget rules, the long-term capital gains (for investments held more than one year) exceeding more than Rs.1,00,000 are subject to 10% tax without benefit of indexation.

The ELSS funds are the best option as tax saving investments as they have the power to give benefits of high returns with the flexibility of investment and the lowest lock-in period when compared to other investments.