Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Inflation- sheez a dayan!

 Inflation has the hit the market and the common man hard. While films like"Peepli Live" had a musical version ("mehngaayee dayan"- remixed into a version called "Inflation- sheez a dayan!" ) to show how it hits the latter, I thought I will assimilate a few basics that might make sense to those who really need to get into the root of the matter. For those who know it all- those comments are more than welcome. So, here goes:

In economics, inflation is a rise in the general level of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time. When the general price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services. Consequently, inflation also reflects an erosion in the purchasing power of money – a loss of real value in the internal medium of exchange and unit of account in the economy. A chief measure of price inflation is the inflation rate, the annualized percentage change in a general price index (normally the Consumer Price Index) over time.
Inflation can be recognized as a combination of 4 factors:
  • The Supply of money goes up
  • The Supply of Goods goes down
  • Demand for money goes down
  • Demand for goods goes up
Our Indian government gets involved in it to control the inflation by adjusting the level of money in our economical system. The most noticeable way to increase the money flow in the system is to print more currency, then the rupees will become more relative to goods.

So how do interest rates affect the rise and fall of inflation? Like we said earlier, lower interest rates put more borrowing power in the hands of consumers. And when consumers spend more, the economy grows, naturally creating inflation. If the Fed decides that the economy is growing too fast-that demand will greatly outpace supply-then it can raise interest rates, slowing the amount of cash entering the economy.

It's the Fed's responsibility to closely monitor inflation indicators like the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the Producer Price Indexes (PPI) and do its best to keep the economy in balance. There must be enough economic growth to keep wages up and unemployment low, but not too much growth that it leads to dangerously high inflation. The target inflation rate is somewhere between two and three percent per year.

Inflation and Global Liquidity
Factors like rates of import and export, the production cost of farms, value of dollar, price of oil (crude oil), market movements of other overseas markets cause global liquidity. In India, we can also feel the effects of global liquidity. We are not isolated from all these issues now. Due to the remarkable economic growth of India over the recent years, increase in foreign currency inflow caused the demand in multiples for many Merchandise and services in India. RBI (Reserve Bank of India) needs to control this excess liquidity in our economic system. For this, RBI increases the “Repo rates” which makes “Costly Credits” and thus increases the CRR rate (Cash Reserve Ratio). This kind of measures by RBI can only control the inflation to a certain extent only.

Due to Globalization, no country are independent from Global Liquidities. This causes an important factor for the inflation in a country. A political crunch or economical downturn in a far away country can impact our money value in India

What is a CRR rate?
Cash reserve Ratio (CRR) is the amount of funds that the banks have to keep with RBI. If RBI decides to increase the percent of this, the available amount with the banks comes down. RBI is using this method (increase of CRR rate), to drain out the excessive money from the banks.
What is a Bank Rate?
Bank rate is the rate at which RBI gives to the commercial banks. Whenever RBI increases its rates, the effect will be shown on the commercial banks. In this case, the commercial banks have to increase the interest rates for their profits.

What is a Repo Rate?
Whenever the banks have any shortage of funds they can borrow it from RBI. Repo rate is the rate at which our banks borrow rupees from RBI. A reduction in the repo rate will help banks to get money at a cheaper rate. When the repo rate increases borrowing from RBI becomes more expensive.

What is a Reverse Repo Rate?
Reverse Repo rate is the rate at which Reserve Bank of India (RBI) borrows money from banks. Banks are always happy to lend money to RBI since their money are in safe hands with a good interest. An increase in Reverse repo rate can cause the banks to transfer more funds to RBI due to this attractive interest rates. It can cause the money to be drawn out of the banking system.
Due to this fine tuning of RBI using its tools of CRR, Bank Rate, Repo Rate and Reverse Repo rate our banks adjust their lending or investment rates for common man.

Inflation & Investors:
When it comes to inflation, the question on many investors' minds is: "How will it affect my investments?" This is an especially important issue for people living on a fixed income, such as retirees.

The impact of inflation on your portfolio depends on the type of securities you hold. If you invest only in stocks, worrying about inflation shouldn't keep you up at night. Over the long run, a company's revenue and earnings should increase at the same pace as inflation. The exception to this is stagflation. The combination of a bad economy with an increase in costs is bad for stocks. Also, a company is in the same situation as a normal consumer  - the more cash it carries, the more its purchasing power decreases with increases in inflation.

The main problem with stocks and inflation is that a company's returns tend to be overstated. In times of high inflation, a company may look like it's prospering, when really inflation is the reason behind the growth. When analyzing financial statements, it's also important to remember that inflation can wreak havoc on earnings depending on what technique the company is using to value inventory.

Fixed-income investors are the hardest hit by inflation. Suppose that a year ago you invested 1,000  rupees in a Fixed deposit with a 10%  rate of interest. Now that you are about to collect the 1,100 rupees  owed to you, is your rs 100 (10%) return real? Of course not! Assuming inflation was positive for the year, your purchasing power has fallen and, therefore, so has your real return. We have to take into account the chunk inflation has taken out of your return. If inflation was 4%, then your return is really 6%.

This example highlights the difference between nominal interest rates and real interest rates. The nominal interest rate is the growth rate of your money, while the real interest rate is the growth of your purchasing power. In other words, the real rate of interest is the nominal rate reduced by the rate of inflation. In our example, the nominal rate is 10% and the real rate is 6% (10% - 4% = 6%).

As an investor, you must look at your real rate of return. Unfortunately, investors often look only at the nominal return and forget about their purchasing power altogether.

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