Fixed deposits or time deposits were a long last financial instrument hardly used over the last 3-4 years thanks to continuous bull run in the stock markets. Persons who wants to keep money in Fixed deposits were looked down upon as risk-averse, conservative and naive investors. Low interest regime and inefficient tax structure also added to the woes of the investors in fixed deposits. Fixed deposits, as the preferred asset class, vanished from the investors radar.
Coupled with the recent turmoil in the global financial markets and erosion in value of stocks across the board and the high fixed deposit interest rates, fixed or term deposits have slowly gaining prominence again. Currently banks are offering attractive interest rates of 10.50% to 11.50% (for senior citizens) on retail fixed deposits.
If you analyse the reasons behind the high interest rates, you will understand that it is due to the tightening of the domestic money supply by RBI through various monetary policy measures like hiking the CRR rates and repo rates making it costly for banks to borrow and lend. RBI followed the dear money policy till couple of months ago due to the run-away demand led inflation. Suddenly in September, the global financial markets went through a very bad patch where many of the global investment banks disappeared from the scene and it led to sudden realisation of counter-party default risk among the financial community. Banks started hoarding cash instead of lending to customers and financial institutions thereby creating scarcity of deposits.
In that scenario, Indian banks and financial institutions which have lent money to various sectors like real-estate and others started facing defaults or delayed payments. The stock markets worldwide tumbled as the FII's started selling across the board and more particularly in emerging markets. FII's selling the stocks and taking the money out of the country resulted in heavy demand for the US Dollar. The Indian rupee depreciated sharply against the dollar breaching the Rs50 mark against the dollar before recovering to Rs48 against the dollar. The industrial production, exports and consumer demand started to slow-down across the world. Today many countries have seen negative growth in their economy. US, Japan and Europe have slipped into recession. What a change compared what was 6-9 months back. The reaction were swift and painful for most of the market particpants.
Part II would be published tomorrow.