Relationship Between Interest Rates and Mutual Funds

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  • 05 Mar 2024
Relationship Between Interest Rates and Mutual Funds

Interest rates impact several aspects of finances, and mutual fund investment is one among them. One of the key economic indicators, interest rate, has a profound impact on how mutual funds perform, and as an investor, it’s essential for you to understand it for informed decision-making. Let’s start.

Before delving deep into the impact of interest rates on mutual funds, let’s first understand what interest rates are. Simply put, interest rate refers to the rate of borrowing money set up by the RBI. It is the base that decides the cost of borrowing for all financial transactions, including bank-to-bank loans and bank-to-customers.

Several factors drive the dynamics of interest rates. The RBI closely monitors key economic indicators such as inflation and economic growth to compute appropriate interest rate levels. When inflation is high, the RBI increases interest rates to bring it down and prevent a further price uptick. On the other hand, when there's a slowdown in the economy, the RBI raises interest rates to stimulate borrowing and spending.

Both debt and equity funds feel the impact of interest rates. Here’s how:

Interest Rate Impact on Debt Funds

Debt funds that invest in fixed-income securities, such as bonds, treasury bills, commercial papers, etc., are negatively impacted when interest rates are high. The impact is more profound on debt mutual funds with bonds as their underlying portfolio. This is because bond prices and interest rates move in opposite directions. When interest rates are up, bond prices are down, and vice-versa.

When interest rates are high, new bonds offer better returns than old bonds, and your investments in them are likely to suffer. The greater the maturity period, the higher the chances of them being susceptible to interest rate risk. That said, funds with shorter durations that invest in floating-rate bonds are less likely to be affected by changes in interest rates as against funds that invest in fixed-rate bonds.

Interest Rate Effect on Equity Mutual Funds

Interest rates also influence equity mutual funds. When rates are low, borrowings become less expensive for companies. This, in turn, can boost their profitability and returns. If it happens, it enhances returns from equity mutual funds. On the contrary, when interest rates go up, borrowing becomes expensive for companies, and their profitability takes a hit. In such a scenario, equity funds may see a dip in returns.

Also, in a high-interest rate regime, generally, a negative investor sentiment adds to market volatility. In such a scenario, most investors tend to pull out money from equities and shift to safer investment options. This shift in preference could lead to selling pressure in equities, thereby affecting their performance.

While you can do little to control interest rates, what you can do is tailor your investment strategy in a manner that allows you to cushion your investments against interest rate risks. Some strategies you can adopt are as follows:

Understand the Interest Rate Environment

Stay informed about the prevailing interest rate environment and keep a tab on RBI’s monetary policy meets. Decisions regarding key policy rates are taken during these meetings. Following them closely can help you know RBI’s take on the current interest rate environment and the economy in general.

Invest in Short Duration Debt Funds

Debt funds with a higher maturity duration are more likely to be impacted by adverse interest rate movement. Hence, it’s crucial for you to invest in short-duration debt funds that are likely to be less sensitive to interest rate movements.

Monitor and Rebalance

Review your portfolio regularly and rebalance it to maintain your desired asset allocation. Changes in interest rates can impact the balance of your portfolio. Rebalancing helps make sure that your investments align with your risk tolerance and investment goals.

In Conclusion

As evident, interest rates profoundly influence the performance of various asset classes, particularly bonds within mutual fund portfolios. Flexibility and a readiness to adapt to evolving market conditions are key elements in mitigating interest rate risks. By staying informed, adopting a diversified approach, and, when necessary, seeking professional advice, you can better position yourself to weather the impact of interest rate fluctuations and make informed decisions in sync with your financial goals.

FAQs on Relationship Between Interest Rates and Mutual Funds

Mutual funds, both debt and equity, suffer when interest rates are high. On the other hand, when rates are low, they are likely to perform well.

Generally yes. When rates go up, underlying securities' value go down, which subsequently pulls down returns from funds.

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