RISING NPAS IN INDIAN BANKING SECTOR: CAUSES, EFFECTS, IMPLICATIONS AND REMEDIES

By Charudutt Sehgal

Introduction

The economic progress of a nation and development of its banking sector is invariably interrelated. The banking sector is an indispensable financial service sector supporting development plans through channelizing funds for productive purpose, intermediating flow of funds from surplus to deficit units and supporting financial and economic policies of the government. Banks serve social objectives through priority sector lending, mass branch networks and employment generation. Maintaining asset quality and profitability are critical for banks survival and growth. In the process of achieving such objectives, a major roadblock to banking sector is prevalence of Non-Performing Assets (NPA). In India, the problem of bad debts was not taken seriously until it was mandated by the Narasimham and Verma committee. The committee mandated the curbing of the particular issue because NPA direct towards credit risk that bank faces and its efficiency in allocating resources.

The aim of this research paper is to study the current trend of NPAs in Indian scheduled banks (up to 2013-14 only). The paper further examines the critical reasons behind the rise of this issue, its impact on Indian banking sector and Indian economy. In order to understand the criticality of the problem an effort has been made to study what impact NPAs have on ease of doing business rankings. Furthermore, the paper concludes with some of the important measures which if implemented then can improve the current scenario of NPAs in SCBs.

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Finacabulary #10- Animal Spirits

Meaning: Describes human emotion that drives consumer confidence.

A term used by John Maynard Keynes in his 1936 publication (“The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money”), animal spirits emphasizes the importance of confidence and the ‘gut instincts’ of businessmen on their future business prospects. It also refers to the risk involved in taking decisions which invariably have an element of risk attached to it. The term itself is drawn from Latin – spiritus animales, which may be interpreted as the spirit that drives human thought, feeling and action.

ECONOMIC CRISIS: WHAT NEXT?

By Vinay Narasimhan

Edited by Balakumar M

The global economy can interestingly be compared to a human body and countries to blood cells. When blood cells in one part of the body get affected, the infection rampantly spreads to other parts making the entire body frail. An antidote may not be strong enough to help the blood cells recover. A human body makes its own antibodies to fight such infections. It allows the weaker blood cells to die and forms new blood cells to fight the infection effectively.

In this paper, we would try to establish how this phenomenon applies to the global economy where, often the best possible way to revive an economy is to allow it to correct itself with least government intervention.

A downturn in the economies across the globe stems from a slowdown in GDP growth rate. Often inflation (or deflation) and liquidity shortage accompany the downturn as symptoms for bigger events. This leads to financial instability within the country which, in turn spreads to other economies due to globalization. This results in a financial crisis across the globe.

Since a banking system acts as the backbone to an economy, its stability greatly depends on the adopted banking practices. One of the many disguised threats to an economy is the use of fractional reserve banking system. In this system, when a person deposits a particular amount of money in the bank, it keeps a small portion as reserves and lends the rest. The money lent gets deposited in another bank and the cycle continues.

This cycle shows that only a small fraction of money is in the physical form as currency and the remaining is in the form of debts. Such low levels of liquidity become a critical factor for perpetual growth or collapse of an economy.

Some of the major events of economic downturn across the world for the past 25 years are as follows:

The Energy Crisis (2003 onwards)

In 2003, the oil prices had suddenly gone up from a historic price level of $25 to $30. By 2008, it touched $147, an increase of 390% in 5 years. This was majorly because of unrest in the middle-east, fall in the US dollar, the Israel- Lebanon conflict and hurricane Katrina. This shows how oil prices were impacted by events across various countries in the 2008 recession.

The Housing Bubble (2008)

The collapse of Lehman Brothers, a giant global financial services firm in September 2008 almost brought down the financial system of the entire world. The credit crunch that followed the fall of many such banks turned the already nasty downturn into the worst recession seen in the last 80 years. The crisis had multiple causes. The financiers, central bankers and regulators were to be blamed.

Some of the events and their impacts were:

  • The emergence of Government Sponsored Enterprise – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the Community Reinvestment Act pressurized banks to provide risky loans.
  • Increased savings in Asia led to a fall in global interest rates.
  • European banks borrowed American money and invested in dodgy securities.
  • Due to low inflation and stable economy till mid 2000s risk appetite of American citizens had increased.
  • Huge loans were lent without proper credit checks.

Several of these mortgages were passed on to financial engineers who converted them into low-risk securities. Investors across the globe were attracted to these securities as they gave good returns. In 2008, the borrowers started to default on their payments which became a big threat to investors. This led to the burst of the housing bubble. This economic event had a huge impact on the global economy especially the emerging nations and the Euro-Zone, which are known to be highly correlated to the US economy.

The European Sovereign Debt Crisis (2009)

This is also referred to as the Eurozone crisis. In 1993, the European Union originated from The Maastricht treaty that brought together 27 European countries to reduce the trade barriers between them and boost economic growth across EU. European Central Bank was then formed a regulatory authority for all the banks in the Euro Zone. Banks from any country within EU could lend to each other. This led to an increase in fiscal spending. There was a rise in employment opportunities in this zone which in turn increased the cost of living and borrowings. This had a cyclic effect.

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Since the US and the Euro Zone are positively correlated to each other, crisis in the US had a huge impact on European countries. Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Iceland and Spain’s debt increased rapidly leading to huge fiscal deficits. There came a situation where banks from stable nations like Germany started implementing stringent policies. This led to a crisis across these nations which were interconnected to each other. As these countries had huge borrowings from each other, all the countries that lent the money were also affected by the crisis.

Fiscal prudence and spending cuts were imposed in these countries followingthe suit that Germany had started. There was a huge unexpected multiplier effect because of the fiscal cuts which led to fall in employment and prices across EU.

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The Arab Springs (2010)

The European financial crisis was contagious to economies beyond its geographic dimensions. The dissatisfaction amongst the people due to high inflation, unemployment and poor living conditions led to a revolt against the ruthless autocrats of the Arabian countries.

Europe is the major trade partner of the Arab countries. About 60-80% of the oil in this region is exported to Europe. Euro crisis also affected the tourism in the Arab region leading to a drop in money transfers. Flow of money through the banking sector also shrank drastically due to fall of the European Banking system.

The result of the Arab Spring had an impact on various countries due to huge rise in the oil prices from $91.58/barrel in December 2010 to $126/barrel in April 2011. This led to an increase in inflation across several developing and developed countries.

Russian Crisis (2014)

Crude oil exports constituted a major part of Russia’s economy. Although Russia benefitted from the surge in oil prices, it had to face a negative effect in 2014 when the economy crashed due to two major reasons:

  • Fall in the price of oil due to increase in production by the US
  • Sanctions against Russia due to its military intervention in Ukraine
    This shows a negative correlation between US and the Russian economy.Stability in one region leads to a slowdown in the other.

Chinese Economic Crisis (Present)

The global debt is expected to cross $200 trillion. Apart from countries like US, Japan and the Euro Zone nations, China has a major share in the global debt owing to its expansionary monetary policy. The total debt has increased to around 280% of its GDP. Real estate which contributed largely to the GDP has also slowed down, piling up the unsold properties to a record high. The bonds of Chinese corporates are nosediving and several huge real estate companies sought bailouts from the Central Bank. The Chinese Central Bank responded by cutting the Reserve Requirement Ratio and relaxing the monetary policy. This might have a catastrophic effect on the global economy as it involves huge investments and lending from banks across the world. There is a great possibility of China becoming the epicenter for the second global economic crisis.

From the above analysis, we can infer that a period of rapid economic growth is succeeded by a slowdown in the economy. This can be termed as a cyclical slowdown. An intervention with an unavoidable delay in implementation could aggravate the situation. In such a scenario, Milton Friedman’s free market economy with least intervention unarguably holds true. Hence, allowing the economies to correct themselves with least government intervention would be the best possible solution.

References

FT.COM – World business, finance, and political news from the Financial Times – FT.com
In-text: (Ft.com)
Bibliography: Ft.com,. ‘World Business, Finance, And Political News From The Financial Times – FT.Com’. N.p., 2012. Web. 7 May 2015.

THE ECONOMIST – The Economist – World News, Politics, Economics, Business & Finance
In-text: (The Economist)
Bibliography: The Economist,. ‘The Economist – World News, Politics, Economics, Business & Finance’. N.p., 2014. Web.

BOFINGER, P., REISCHLE, J. AND SCHACHTER, A. – Monetary policy
In-text: (Bofinger, Reischle and Schachter)
Bibliography: Bofinger, Peter, Julian Reischle, and Andrea Schachter. Monetary Policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Print.

JAIN, B. AND PROFILE, V. – BJ’s nocabbages
In-text: (Jain and profile)
Bibliography: Jain, Bharat, and View profile. ‘BJ’s Nocabbages’. Bjnocabbages.com. N.p., 2013.

JONATHANJARVIS.COM – Jonathan Jarvis
In-text: (Jonathanjarvis.com)
Bibliography: Jonathanjarvis.com,. ‘Jonathan Jarvis’. Web. 20 Nov. 2014.

IS THE AGEING DRAGON A BLESSING IN DISGUISE FOR INDIAN ECONOMY?

By Shulin V K Satoskar

Edited by Madhu Veeraraghavan

Introduction

China’s devaluation of Yuan, last week, represented the largest depreciation of the currency for 20 years and sent tremors down the Dalal Street. The “Kiss of the Dragon” was felt across already subdued economic conditions throughout the world. Notably, Nobel Laureate and renowned economist Paul Krugman described the decision as “the first bite of the cherry” envisaging that more could follow. The World’s largest economy could be weaker than the 7% a year growth that official figures suggest.

In my attempt to explain the slowdown in Chinese economy and a great opportunity for India to bank upon, I have used the concept of business cycles and its impact on economies.

Business Cycle

A business cycle is defined by the fluctuations in an economic activity over a period and covers expansion/recession in any economy. An expansion phase is marked by rising indicators like income, employment, industrial output.

Cyclical fluctuations in economic activity are features of most economies. One of the reasons why nations fail to achieve a sustainable economic growth rate is because the policy makers underestimate economic cycles. Hence, an improved understanding of the economic cycles and policies interaction is imperative in formulating forward looking monetary policy.

Economists are often puzzled by the Growth-Inflation paradox. Most agree

that sustained growth rate cannot be achieved above a threshold rate of inflation; there are no models that accurately estimate on what constitutes the “Threshold”. Figure 1 captures an economic cycle in Indian economy from 2005-10. Inflation rate (depicted by the Green line) and Business Cycle (depicted by blue) further help identify the counter-cyclical nature of Growth-Inflation tradeoff with inflation rate almost mirroring the business cycle at identical turning points. Such an economic cycle (typically over a period of 6 years) is known as a Juglar Cycle or J-Cycle. Indian economy currently finds itself at its peak as indicated by the rising trend of the Juglar cycle in 2015, with lower inflation levels, tailor made for a super normal growth stage. However, Juglar peaks are often short lived (1-2 year, see period 2005-07 and 2009-10) and troughs are relatively lengthier (2-3 years, 2010-13).

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There is also a pattern of symmetry around which the cyclical trend oscillates over a period. This is termed as Kondratieff cycle or K-Cycle and usually extends over a period of 42 years. Hence, a K-Cycle typically has 7 J-Cycles. Figure 2 captures a K- cycle in the Indian economy and the breakout started around 1974. A rising trend is indicated by the green trendline below. Such a trend is typical of a robust economy.

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Chinese economy, on the contrary, has experienced a slowdown in consumption in the recent years. The J-cycle from 2010 to 2015 accurately captures this falling trend in Figure 3. Chinese economic cycle has not picked up significantly, in spite of recording a lower inflation rate. Recent RMB devaluation and interest rate cuts further confirm the ineffectiveness of policies introduced during the ‘troughs’. Also, the ‘trough’ looks abnormally extended with little signs of recovery.

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Summary of Findings

From the CRISIL research reports and World Bank data, it can be inferred that:

• Domestic investment in China has shown signs of saturation and there is little room for stimulus (Investment accounted for 47.2% of GDP in 2010 and 46% in 2014). India has huge room for public investment and can absorb trillions of dollars in infrastructure alone.

• A very popular argument among economists is that China has an ageing population which is expected to drive the labor costs up further by 2020.

• Going by IMF figures of 2013, consumption expenditure 70.4% of GDP in India compared to that of 49.6% in China.

• Chinese debts have risen to alarming levels (101% from 2007 to 2014). India on the contrary is relatively safe at 5% increase.

• With a subdued demand across the world, China can rely on export driven growth strategy at its own peril. India’s consumption driven strategy leaves a good headroom from potential upside.

• Pressures of the property bubble are already felt in China as real estate prices are on a decline.

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The Road Ahead

India is now one of the strongest growing economies and remains better positioned compared to its peers. Our country with a stable political environment recorded a sharp decline in inflation and managed to reduce Current Account Deficit (CAD) significantly. prime minister’s foreign visits have managed to win the foreign investor’s confidence yet again indicated by rising FII/FDI inflows. A combination of tactical measures like  the mobilization of NRI deposits, RBI’s success in building forex reserves, restriction on gold imports and slowdown in imports augur well for maintaining sustained growth rate. Currency devaluation war, how- ever, is one major external shock that remains a cause for concern. However, global sentiment still remains bullish on Indian economy on account of the following factors:

• RBI Governor, Mr. Raghuram Rajan has succeeded in building a strong monetary policy discipline that focusses on inflation targeting which in turn strength- ens the rupee.

• With the Land Acquisition Bill, FDIs and GST reforms round the corner, Indian growth story is expected to continue.

• India Inc’s earnings are expected to be 7% this year. Estimated reduction in corporate taxes and GST replacing state taxes will push the earnings upwards.

Major Challenges

• Currency devaluation war is one major external shock that remains a cause for concern

• Subdued global demand can hit India’s exports further impacting the economy

• Impending decision by the US Fed to raise interest rates has the potential to cause volatility in capital and forex markets

          Going by the business cycles and the empirical data on macroeconomic variables, Indian economy certainly is in a good shape compared to its northern neighbour. However, the onus lies on the government to bank on a great opportunity that the ‘peak’ of economic cycle has to offer.

References

  • CRISIL Research Reports on Indian Economy
  • Science of Monetary Policy: Some perspectives on Indian Economy by M J Manohar Rao
  •  www.worldbank.com

IMG_7666About the author:

The author was a Banking and Financial Service student of batch 2014-16. He is currently Management Trainee at CRISIL Research. His area of interest is economic research,  capital market, stock picking, and fund management. You can contact him at shulin.kamat@gmail.com.