Liquid funds back on investors’ radar as IL&FS pain eases a bit

By Ameya Karve

Flows to Indias money funds hit a three-month high in November as calm returned to the credit market recently roiled by a rare debt default.

Investors poured a net 1.4 trillion rupees ($20 billion) into liquid plans in November, industry data show. The inflow is the highest since August, a month before the funds suffered the worst outflows since at least 2007 amid defaults at the IL&FS Group.

“Worries after that credit event are abating and people are returning to money markets,” N.S. Venkatesh, chief executive officer at the Association of Mutual Funds in India, said in a conference call on Friday.

Defaults at IL&FS were a reminder that liquid funds, which account for a fourth of the 23 trillion rupees of industry assets, are also fraught with risk. Several fund houses marked down their holdings of debt issued by IL&FS, with some liquid funds losing as much as 5 percent — or half a years worth of gains — in a single day.

Other takeaways:

  • Investors stayed put in stock funds, though the pace of fresh investment slowed from the previous month ahead of the state elections.
  • Stock plans received a net 84.1 billion rupees in November, down from 126 billion rupees in October, the data show. Thats less than the average of 103 billion rupees a month since the fiscal year began in April.
  • “The market has been volatile and large investors have been on the sidelines to see how things pan out,” Venkatesh said.
  • NOTE: Individual investors have flocked to mutual funds since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014. The influx of cash has been aided by policy changes, including the currency clampdown in 2016, which hurt returns from property and gold, the traditional favorites.
  • The liquidity has provided a buffer against outflows sparked by the risk-off mood: mutual funds bought $16 billion of shares this year, compared with sales of about $5 billion by their global peers, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

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