Wed, Apr 11, 2018 - Page 10 News List

Traders doubt India bond rally till they see money

Bloomberg

Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel looks on at a news conference at the bank’s head office in Mumbai, India, on Thursday last week.

Photo: AFP

Indian bonds have roared back from a seven-month selloff, but traders looking for signs of the rally sustaining might have to wait longer.

Indian state-run lenders, the biggest holders of sovereign debt, remained net sellers in six of the past eight days, despite the rebound, taking the average daily withdrawals so far this year to 7.1 billion rupees (US$111 million), data from the Clearing Corp of India show.

Benchmark yield last week approached a four-month low after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) lowered its inflation forecast, adding to bullish triggers that have included a truncated fiscal first-half borrowing plan and a breather in provisioning of debt losses for banks.

The Indian central bank late on Friday also gave foreigners greater access to the sovereign bond market, a move that had been widely expected.

“If state banks remain net sellers day after day, then, obviously, the market can’t run on lower yields,” Vijay Sharma, executive vice president for fixed-income at PNB Gilts Ltd, said from New Delhi. “It is critical that they return.”

State lenders have sold a net 164.6 billion rupees of debt between March 27 — the day after the government revised its borrowing plan — and Monday, the data show.

The yield on benchmark 10-year bonds yesterday rose 11 basis points, the most since Feb. 1, to 7.33 percent. It has risen 21 basis points in three sessions.

The sustainability of the rally also depends on the government’s debt sales for the second half. That might be one reason why state banks, which already hold more securities than the statutory minimum, are not bullish yet.

“First-half information is all good and we’re enjoying the party, but once we’ve had our fill, we’ll start getting worried about the second half,” Essel Finance AMC Ltd head of fixed income Killol Pandya said. “Banks may not be aggressively buying.”

The success of the upcoming government auctions also hinges on demand from state banks. The Indian central bank has had to cut several bond sales, and scrap others in December last year and early this year as the debt-market selloff deepened.

At the first weekly auction of the new fiscal year, the Indian government accepted only four bids of the 135 received for sale of 30 billion rupees of the 2028 notes, data released by the Indian central bank on Friday show.

The administration accepted only one bid each for 2051 and 2033 bonds.

“One will only get a better sense of what the new bond-trading range is when one sees how the first few auctions get taken,” IDFC Asset Management Co head of fixed income Suyash Choudhary said.

Some investors doubt the central bank’s decision to lower its inflation forecast, saying the move was perhaps guided by efforts to keep a lid on yields.

The raising in foreign ownership limit — by 0.5 percentage points to 5.5 percent this fiscal year and to 6 percent in the next — is also smaller than what the market had been expecting, ICRA Ltd said.

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