Over the past few weeks, the economy of India has been in focus because of various factors such as decline in INR, slowdown in industrial production, etc. We keep reading a lot of articles that suggest that the policies of current government are responsible for this state of affairs. However, most of these articles don’t have sufficient data or charts to support the same. This is an attempt to map macroeconomic data with the articles.
First of all, it needs to be understood that destruction of a solid foundation takes some time even for the worst policies. No wonder, the first few years of UPA government, i.e. from 2004-2008, didn’t show any bad effect on the economy. However, it was the post-crisis period that really showed what the government’s intent was.
I have already written in previous posts how certain policies have adversely impacted Indian economy in the last few years. This time around, I use the yield curves and the 10 year treasury yield to indicate the same.
Typical shape of the yield curve
A typical yield curve should be upward sloping indicating that the higher returns/rates/yields should be provided for taking higher risks which are generally over the long term. Similarly, lower returns/rates/yields should be for lower risks which are generally short term. In short, longer the time frame, higher should be the rate/yield that you should earn. Hence, a typical yield curve would look something like this.
For more details on yield curve, there are several articles that you can search on the net
There are several types of yield curve depending on the interest rate expectations in an economy as listed below –
1. Normal yield curve – his positive slope reflects investor expectations for the economy to grow in the future and, importantly, for this growth to be associated with a greater expectation that inflation will rise in the future rather than fall. For details, refer here
2. Steep yield curve – when the gap between the longer term maturities and 1-3 month maturities increases beyond the long term average, the economy is expected to improve quickly in the future. This type of curve can be seen at the beginning of an economic expansion (or after the end of a recession).
3. Flat or humped yield curve – all maturities have similar yields, whereas a humped curve results when short-term and long-term yields are equal and medium-term yields are higher than those of the short-term and long-term. A flat curve sends signals of uncertainty in the economy. This mixed signal can revert to a normal curve or could later result into an inverted curve.
4. Inverted yield curve – long-term yields fall below short-term yields. Long-term investors settle for lower yields now if they think the economy will slow or even decline in the future. An inverted curve has indicated a worsening economic situation in the future 6 out of 7 times since 1970.
As can be seen above, our present yield curve indicates a flat to inverted yield cuve. The gap between 10 year and 1 year yield is negative 10 bps whereas between 30 year and 1 year yield is only 30 bps. This indicates that there are no investors who are ready to take a call on the long term prospects of the economy. Rather, they would prefer to invest in the 1 year maturity which provides the same returns as a 10 year or 30 year government paper.
While the above is the complete yield curve, investors and economists are more interested in some popular yields such as the 3M (91 day), 1 year, and 10 year. Hence, another way to describe the yield curve is to check the spread between the 10 year and 1 year yields over a period of time. If the spreads increase over a period of time in positive territory or remain in positive territory on a consistent basis, it means that economy is either improving, getting stronger, or expected to boom in coming years. In contrast, if the spread is negative or close to zero or is in a tight band for a prolonged period, then it means that economy is in slowdown or either going into a recession or into stagflation.
Another way to look at is the movement of the 10 year treasury yield over a long time frame. As the chart below shows, during the NDA regime, 10 year treasury yields fell from a high of 10-12% in 1998-99 to ~ 5% in 2004. While it can be argued that downward yield movement was in response to economic slowdown, the spreads in 2004 indicate that the economy was on the verge of strong sustained growth in future years. This was also evident from the strong growth in GDP in the years from 2004-2008 as well as decent GDP growth rate during the NDA regime.
In contrast, since UPA government came into power, spreads between yields have tended to compress. Note that the sharp jump in spread around 2008-09 was due to the global economic crisis which required massive stimulus and led to short term economic recovery. Otherwise, at various periods such as from March 2005 to Feb 2008 and after March 2010, spreads have tended towards 0 or negative territory.
One more related point is the inflation levels. While yields fell during NDA, it was marked by stable low inflation of ~ 4% throughout. In contrast, UPA has been marked by persistently high inflation with CPI hovering ~ 10%. This has been most prominent in last 2-3 years when high inflation coupled with slow economic growth and falling spread between 10Y and 1Y yields indicate persistent economic slowdown or recession.