- Short-term debt fund
- Invests in short-term bonds of banks and public sector companies
- Low risk due to the high quality portfolio
- Lower volatility compared to peers
- Conservative investors with a 1-2 year horizon or those requiring low volatility and a steady high-credit profile
Would you like the following to be true of your debt fund? One, it should deliver higher returns than your bank deposit. Two, it shouldn’t require you to take on high risk in order to get that superior return. Three, you shouldn’t see sudden sharp losses because of reactions to interest rate changes. If so, Axis Banking and PSU Debt fund, a short-term debt fund is your answer.
Axis Banking and PSU Debt (Axis Banking Debt) invests in short-term debt instruments of banks and public sector undertakings (including financial institutions). It generates returns through interest accrual and through trading on the PSU bonds when favourable. It maintains a high credit profile and a short average maturity, keeping its volatility very low.
High credit quality and short maturity
Axis Banking debt restricts investments to AAA-rated bank debentures and PSU bonds, and A1+ rated bank certificates of deposits (CD) and commercial papers (CP). Since its inception in 2012, its portfolio has no paper rated below AA+ or A1+. By mandate, it cannot invest in any paper below AA- and has to invest at least 70% of its portfolio in AAA/A1+ papers. This gives it a steady and low-risk credit profile.
The same cannot be said of other short-term funds; they have moved lower down the credit line in order to lift yields. Quite a few have quarter or even half their portfolio in lower-rated papers. This unpredictability of where funds invest creates additional risk for investors.
Due to its higher CD exposure and high credit, Axis Banking Debt has a lower than average portfolio yield. At 6.91%, the current yield is lower than the short-term average of 7.59% and the 7.3% of banking and PSU debt funds as well. However, the fund began moving into PSU debt only from November last year. Up until then, it was purely into bank papers and average CD holding is still higher than even other banking and PSU debt funds. With bank rates dropping post the liquidity rush, the fund began the shift into the higher-yielding corporate debt segment. CD holding has since dropped to 24-35% of the portfolio from being above 80%. This has helped slowly lift the fund’s YTM, which was 6.4% in November 2016.
Its returns marginally trail the category average in the 1, 2, and 3-year timeframes. However, with no low credit papers and only a recent shift into higher-yielding corporate bonds, relative underperformance is inevitable. But with the gradual shift in the portfolio composition and short-term yields recovering from the liquidity glut, Axis Banking Debt’s returns are recovering.
The fund also has a short maturity, compared to short-term funds as well as banking and PSU funds, at 404 days currently. The category average is more than double this. The fund could thus continue shifting to higher-yielding papers. Rolling 1-month and 3-month returns over the past year shows that returns are gradually inching up and closing the gap with other short-term and banking & PSU funds.
With its short maturity and portfolio makeup, Axis Banking Debt does not see much fluctuation in returns. Its volatility, measured by standard deviation, is the lowest among short-term debt funds, and on par with ultra-short term funds. Even narrowing down its peer group to only banking & PSU funds, Axis Banking Debt remains the least volatile. It holds below average volatility for the short-term category across the years. With further policy rate cuts looking unlikely at this juncture, short-term rates can hold steady and outperform long-term instruments from here.
Rolling daily returns over the past four years also has the fund delivering losses less than 10% of the time while the average for the category is nearly double that. Several short-term funds including a few banking & PSU funds sported losses even on a 3-month rolling return.
While Axis Banking Debt holds potential to beat fixed deposits over a 2 year timeframe, it will not be a category-topper. It suits investors who want lesser volatility and a steady high-credit profile and maturity. Aditya Pagaria is the fund’s manager. It has an AUM of Rs 611 crore.
FundsIndia’s Research team has, to the best of its ability, taken into account various factors – both quantitative measures and qualitative assessments, in an unbiased manner, while choosing the fund(s) mentioned above. However, they carry unknown risks and uncertainties linked to broad markets, as well as analysts’ expectations about future events. They should not, therefore, be the sole basis for investment decisions. To know how to read our weekly fund reviews, please click here.