Fund managers cash in on India’s bond rally

Bloomberg | Updated on January 06, 2020 Published on January 06, 2020

Money managers are selling into the recent rally in the country’s long-tenor bonds. Benchmark yields have slid almost 30 basis points since mid-December, thanks largely to the central bank’s unconventional policy action to buy long-end debt while selling short-end notes. Still, the lingering concern about the government’s fiscal slippage and the risk of a potential rebound in inflation has funds cutting down on duration.

"We have a lot of uncertainty in the bond market in the near term," said Pankaj Pathak, a fixed-income fund manager at Quantum Asset Management Co. "Apart from fiscal risks, crude oil prices have moved up, vegetable prices have been stubborn at higher levels and the geopolitical scenario has changed for worse."

The Reserve Bank of India will conduct its third Federal Reserve-style Operation Twist in a month on Monday. The unprecedented moves have come after uncertainty about public finances pushed up the 10-year sovereign yield to near a three-month high of 6.84 per cent last month. It rose four basis points to 6.56 per cent at 10 am on Monday.

"The three consecutive OMOs have actually brought down the valuation premium," said Pathak. Quantum has lowered its exposure to duration under its dynamic duration fund.

While Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has refused to comment on the deficit goal before the budget presentation on February 1, market watchers widely expect the government to miss the 3.3 per cent target for 2019-20, with some predicting the gap to be closer to 3.8 per cent of GDP.

"We will take this opportunity to reduce exposure by selling bonds at lower yields if possible amid prospects of additional borrowings and hardening of headline inflation," said Dhawal Dalal, chief investment officer for fixed income at Edelweiss Asset Management Ltd. "We have been maintaining relatively higher duration in most of our duration funds."

Published on January 06, 2020
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