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A Home to Stay, A Car to Ride: Indians Use Savings to Buy

Shift in Indian Household Savings

Source and Citation: A Home to Stay, A Car to Ride: Indians Use Savings to Buy, ET Bureau, Jan 2, 2024

Analysis of this News for a Layman

The article reports that Indian households have cut their net financial savings over the past two years by over 6 percentage points. Financial savings refer to the surplus income households have after meeting expenses, which is kept in bank deposits, stocks, funds, and other financial assets to earn interest or returns.

However, over 2020-2022, the proportion of savings Indians kept invested in financial assets fell substantially. Instead, more funds have been allocated toward acquiring real assets like houses, cars, etc., via loans and borrowing. So the behavior indicates dipping financial savings were redirected toward big-ticket physical goods by taking on debt.

While increased non-discretionary spending on housing and transport raises household debt levels, India’s overall consumer debt servicing capacity remains far more comfortable than many developed economies per RBI. This suggests the rise in loans and liabilities has not critically stretched household finances yet.

A Home to Stay, A Car to Ride: Indians Use Savings to Buy

Impact on Retail Investors

For retail investors, the consumer spending shift toward physical goods like property and automobiles points to possible opportunities in finance companies focused on those sectors. Stocks like HDFC, LIC Housing Finance in mortgages, Cholamandalam Investment in vehicle loans, etc., could benefit.

However, higher inflation and interest rates in the economy can slow fresh demand for big-ticket consumption. This may cap upside in lenders catering to these segments. Retail investors must assess loan growth trends closely rather than extrapolate past momentum amid changing macro conditions.

Also key is avoiding NBFCs with concentrated risk in high-ticket lending, shaky collection infrastructure, or asset quality concerns that can magnify credit costs when conditions worsen. Stability and diversification alongside growth consistency determine winners.

Impact on Industries

Housing and automobile industries seem poised to benefit from the consumer shift toward allocating savings into property and vehicles. However, higher property prices and loan rates could deter first-time home buyers or rural car purchasers sensitive to EMIs.

Thus affordability considerations may continue shifting demand down the market. This favors developers and auto firms emphasizing budget offerings for price-conscious segments instead of just high-end sales. Shared mobility could also gain appeal if owning deprioritized.

In parallel, lenders with strong collections architecture and prudent underwriting are best equipped to capitalize on lending market opportunities without accumulating excessive late-stage credit risks. But smaller NBFCs focused narrowly on risky segments like unsecured loans may face asset quality pressures.

Long Term Benefits & Negatives

Over longer-term horizons, higher household investment in housing as a secure asset class and essential transport can positively impact stability and intergenerational wealth creation. This demand infusion that boosts the construction and manufacturing ecosystems also creates jobs.

However, excessive debt without income growth poses grave downside risks – from steeper NPA levels to reduced discretionary consumption if too much income services EMIs. Home price declines amid already weakened affordability could create negative equity scenarios too.

Thus ensuring borrowing aligns with prudent debt servicing capacity norms and balanced across consumer segments is critical for sustainably unlocking consumption. Home loans above 50-60% of income or auto loans over 30% require caution around underwriting. Avoiding over-leverage preserves financial stability.

Short Term Benefits & Negatives

In the short term, diverting savings toward big-ticket goods can stimulate economic activity across linked supply chains in construction, cement, steel, automobiles, etc – spurring job creation and working capital demand.

NBFCs and banks meeting intact housing/auto demand with customized loan products could realize earnings upside too if risks managed diligently. This extends to developers ensuring project execution keeps pace.

However, higher inflation and rates pressure affordability across middle-income tiers vulnerable to EMI fluctuations. Thus, housing sales may track job security and income sentiment closely. Weaker than expected festive auto sales indicate near-term cash conservation mindset.

So while loan growth continues, it may require tempering projections, keeping contingency buffers, and proactively restructuring stressed borrowers if the macro environment worsens. This ensures short-term financial stability without curtailing liquidity flow to productive sectors.

Impact of Declining Indian Household Savings:

Indian Companies:

Gaining:

  • Real Estate Developers: Increased utilization of savings for property acquisition could benefit companies like Godrej Properties, Sobha Ltd., and Brigade Enterprises as demand for homes remains strong despite rising interest rates.
  • Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs): NBFCs specializing in housing finance like HDFC Ltd., LIC Housing Finance, and Bajaj Housing Finance could see increased loan issuance with rising mortgage demand.
  • Auto Companies: Increased spending on vehicles could benefit leading automakers like Maruti Suzuki, Tata Motors, and Mahindra & Mahindra as consumer sentiment towards car ownership remains positive.
  • Consumer Durables & Home Improvement companies: Companies like Havells, Crompton Greaves, Asian Paints, and Berger Paints might see increased demand for appliances and home improvement products as people invest in their newly acquired homes and vehicles.

Neutral:

  • Banks: While rising interest rates might improve lending margins, increased debt burden on households could potentially lead to higher non-performing loans (NPLs) in the long run.

Losing:

  • Financial Products & Services Companies: Companies offering products like mutual funds and life insurance that rely on long-term savings might see reduced inflows as household savings dip.

Global Companies:

Gaining:

  • Global Luxury Brands: Increased spending by Indian consumers, despite declining savings, could benefit luxury brands like Rolex, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci, particularly through increased e-commerce purchases.
  • Global Automotive Suppliers: Increased vehicle production in India could benefit global suppliers of auto parts and components.

Neutral:

  • Global Investors: Declining household savings might raise concerns about future consumer spending and potentially impact portfolio investments in Indian equities.

Market Sentiment:

  • Mixed for Indian companies, with potential upside for real estate, auto, and consumer durables but challenges for financial products and services.
  • Cautious for banks, balancing potential NPL risks with higher interest rate benefits.
  • Positive for global luxury brands and auto suppliers benefiting from increased Indian consumer spending.
  • Neutral for global investors, potentially factoring in concerns about declining savings but weighing against strong underlying economic growth.

Remember: This analysis is based on limited information and specific company strategies and financial performance will ultimately determine their individual benefits or challenges. Monitor developments in interest rates, consumer spending patterns, and government policies for a more nuanced understanding of the potential impact.

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