Flaws in Measuring Housing Contribution Distorting Inflation Index: Experts

Housing Inflation Index Distortions – Implications for Real Estate Stocks and Retail Investors
Source: Original reporting by ET Bureau on January 20th, 2024, published in Economic Times.

Analysis for a Layman 

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) tracks housing inflation using a housing index comprising rent prices and house rent allowances (HRA) to measure rental housing costs. However, experts believe that longer rental agreements post-COVID and dependence on HRAs for government housing distort true price trends.

For example, owner-provided public sector accommodation HRAs reflect employee seniority rather than market rates. Also, longer rental locks taken during COVID conceal real demand-supply dynamics. Yet, contrasts exist, such as rising real estate sale prices indicating robust housing appetite.

Such data inaccuracies hamper policymaking if demand is underestimated, leading to inadequate housing stimulus. Rectifying the methodology to capture ground realities is vital.

Flaws in Measuring Housing Contribution Distorting Inflation Index: Experts

Impact on Retail Investors 

For stock investors, the distortions prevent clarity on real estate sector prospects necessary for informed decisions. If housing inflation is actually higher than captured in indexes, realty stocks get overlooked despite healthy upside potential.

Retail investors must dig deeper and analyze micro-market sales velocities, new project launches, developer earnings calls, etc., to verify real end-user appetite. Robust volumes signal undervaluation opportunities missed by secondary data.

Names like DLF, Oberoi Realty, Sobha should be revalued based on field dynamics instead of possibly flawed inflation indexes. Even housing financiers like Repco, CanFin Homes, and cement makers benefit from latent realty optimism unable to permeate stock prices if indexes mask positives.

Use research initiatives like channel checks and management commentary to identify market leaders gaining share signaling value. Realty also offers an inflation hedge for long-term investors.

Impact on Industries 

The mismatch between housing indexes and actual real estate health has broad repercussions if unaddressed. It compels re-evaluating stimulus measures promoting affordable construction if demand is underestimated. Schemes like CLSS, infra status require tweaks responding to ground needs.

Upstream sectors also remain tentative to expand output if unreliable data conceals offtake potential. Cement, tiles, and steel players hesitate boosting capacities fearing oversupply unable to gauge true requirements. Lost production opportunities dent job creation.

However, select pockets witnessing sales uptick help flows to ancillary industries in respective regions though national level direction seems blurry. For example, Mumbai pipeline suppliers see order inflow despite tepid pan-India signals.

Thus removing distortions provides a tailwind to upstream suppliers, financiers, and home loan providers to align strategies with genuine end-user demand facilitating growth.

Long Term Benefits and Negatives 

Accurately measuring housing inflation is imperative for India’s stated policy priority of ensuring Housing for All by 2022. Meticulous diagnosis of price trends and affordability barriers is the first step in designing effective interventions like interest subsidies and GST relief.

Else over/underestimates lead to fiscal stress from miscalculated budgetary support. Optimal resource allocation for sustainable development relies on credible demand/supply analytics minimizing distortions.

Further, home asset creation propels 70 allied industries spanning materials, furnishings, and appliances. Underestimating market scope hampers the entire ecosystem scaling up to support an ownership economy. Large ancillary job creation potential also suffers.

However transitioning to reoriented price indexes entails short term flux adjusting legacy assumptions. Communication for rationalizing market expectations during change is vital when naive extrapolation loses relevance. Adopting global best practices requires temporary instability embracing progress.

Short Term Benefits and Negatives 

In the interim before index reforms fully materialize, investors and analysts should supplement published housing data with bottom-up analysis on sales velocities, new launches, channel inventory movements, etc., to minimize blind spots.

Sector-wise, rental accommodation providers lose edge as index distortions smoothed since metrics captured actual competitive dynamics transparently. Tenants also make informed choices on rental lock-in tradeoffs.

However near term demand uncertainty creeps in for upstream materials providers like cement, steel, etc., if macro level signals seem ambiguous from data corrections. But micro-market focus mitigates this risk.

For policymakers, the transition may moderate perceived inflation in the short run if previous overestimation is nullified. But the trend should reverse subsequently capturing genuine price pressures if existing. Communicating this temporary flux is important to guide expectations.

Overall, benefits outweigh costs as data credibility uplifts system quality rectifying blind spots. Healthy practices get institutionalized producing high-quality downstream decisions.

Analysis of Potential Gainers and Losers from Distorted Housing Inflation Data

Disclaimer: This analysis is based on the provided information and current market trends. Actual impacts may vary and should be further researched before making investment decisions.

Indian Companies potentially gaining from this:

  • Real Estate Developers: A potential underestimation of housing inflation could paint a rosier picture of the demand-supply dynamics, boosting investor confidence in the sector. Companies like DLF Limited, Sobha Developers, and Godrej Properties could benefit from increased investment and stock prices.
  • Home Improvement Players: If actual rent prices are higher than reflected in the CPI, consumer spending on home improvement projects could rise. Companies like Asian Paints, Berger Paints, and Kajaria Ceramics could experience increased demand for their products.
  • Construction Material Providers: Higher housing prices could lead to increased construction activity, benefiting building material suppliers like JSW Steel, ACC Limited, and Ambuja Cements.
  • Mortgage Lenders: Higher housing prices could increase the value of mortgage portfolios and potentially lead to greater demand for new loans, benefiting companies like HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, and SBI.
  • Financial Institutions with Exposure to Infrastructure: If the government increases infrastructure spending to address the housing market imbalance, it could benefit banks and NBFCs with significant infrastructure lending, such as Axis Bank and IDFC First Bank.

Indian Companies potentially losing from this:

  • Retailers and Consumer Staples: An underestimation of inflation could lead to lower wage adjustments and less discretionary spending, impacting companies like Reliance Retail, Avenue Supermarts, and ITC Limited.
  • FMCG Companies: Inflation miscalculations could lead to inaccurate demand forecasts and inventory mismanagement, potentially affecting companies like Hindustan Unilever, Nestle India, and Britannia Industries.
  • Companies Reliant on Government Contracts: If the government prioritizes other sectors due to the distorted housing data, companies heavily reliant on government contracts, like infrastructure and construction players, could experience slower growth.

Global Companies:

The impact on global companies is less direct as the news primarily concerns Indian data. However, some indirect effects could be observed:

  • Global Investors with Exposure to Indian Markets: Distorted data could create uncertainty and potentially lead to sell-offs in Indian equities, impacting global investment funds and asset managers.
  • Multinational Companies Operating in India: If consumer spending weakens due to miscalculated inflation, it could affect the Indian operations of global consumer goods and retail companies.

Overall Market Sentiment:

The news could create short-term volatility and uncertainty in the Indian market, particularly in real estate and inflation-sensitive sectors. However, the long-term impact will depend on how quickly and effectively the data discrepancies are addressed.

Important Notes:

  • This is a complex issue with multiple stakeholders and potential outcomes. This analysis provides a snapshot and should not be considered exhaustive.
  • Further research and analysis are crucial before making investment decisions based on this information.
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