I remember a time not so long ago when the headlines screamed oil, as they are doing today. But just six years ago, it was the fear of very high oil prices that was freaking out everyone. A resource-guzzling China was setting the oil, and commodity, market on fire, and in 2006, predictions of oil barrelling past $100 was making headlines. Oil did break $100, got to $142 in 2008 and then sank to $32 the same year when the markets collapsed, and then roared back to cross $100 two years later. Today the reverse is true—doomsday forecasts project oil at $10 a barrel, after oil breached the $30 price last week. Some of the current end-of-the-world predictions for 2016 rest on the collapse of oil.
At a time when reducing costs and giving the Indian investor a fair deal is at the centre stage of policy and regulation, the insurance regulator, in a move that is stunning on many counts, has proposed to hike commissions and payouts to sellers of insurance, legitimise illegal payments and bring back hereditary commissions. In the draft rules (read here: http://bit.ly/1RlmiJ9) on commissions released last week, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (Irdai) has raised total sales-linked compensation across the board.
News reports last week said that high net worth (non-retail) money had flooded into the 7.35% tax-free NHAI (National Highways Authority of India) bonds while the retail portion, with a 25 basis point higher rate of interest, saw tepid demand. This can be interpreted in two ways. One, smart money expects interest rates to fall and is hence locking into a high tax-free return. Two, smart money expects stock returns to be muted and is therefore moving money into debt.
Imagine this. Your kid in class eight comes to you in the month of January and says that he’s unprepared for the final exams that are now just three months away. He’s sorry he faffed around all year, but well, it’s too late now, isn’t it? What’s your second reaction? The first is mostly to tell him how irresponsible he is and how, at his age, you were such a paragon of virtue and were studying by night and working by day (all lies, of course, but we adults do pretend to be perfect). Next lungful of breath is expelled in telling him to use the next three months to study night and day and do the best he can. Cut out the movies, the parties, the games, the online chatting and games, and get to it. You don’t find yourself telling him to drop a year and take no action since it is already too late.
We don’t do tips. We don’t do ‘best bets’. We don’t tell you ‘winning’ stocks or how to multiply your money overnight. In short, we don’t do bulls and bears or what comes out of them. We don’t insult your intellect by giving you the winning tip this year. Look at the data in the chart below (Each year has a new winner); there is no consistent winner in different asset classes year on year. If gold outperformed equity, debt and cash in 2011, it was the turn of equity to be the winner in 2014. Chasing last year’s winner is a strategy that we don’t follow. Predicting next year’s ‘winner’ is a job we leave to the speculators and traders in the market to worry about.