Interest rate risk

Interest rate risk means the chance that the value of an investment could drop because interest rates change unexpectedly.
Interest rate risk
3 min
21-June-2024

Interest rate risk (IRR) refers to the potential for a change in interest rates to reduce the value of an investment or asset. For example: When interest rates increase, bond prices typically decrease, and conversely, when interest rates decline, bond prices tend to rise. This occurs because the market value of existing bonds adjusts to align with the attractiveness of newly issued bonds offering higher or lower rates.

When you think of risky investments, equity stocks and equity funds may be the first options you recall. While these investments are undoubtedly risky, all investments carry some kind of risk — even relatively safer assets like debt instruments. In fact, they are particularly vulnerable to interest rate risk.

In this article, we explore the meaning of interest rate risk, understand how it works in the context of mutual funds and how you can mitigate this risk in your portfolio.

What is interest rate risk?

Interest rate risk is the possibility of an asset’s decreasing due to changes in the interest rates in the economy. More specifically, this risk affects debt instruments like government bonds, corporate bonds and other fixed-income securities. While their value may not be tied to market sentiment, they are certainly affected directly by interest rate changes.

Bond and debt instrument prices are inversely correlated with interest rates. So, if the interest rates increase, bond prices will fall. Conversely, if the interest rates decline, bonds will see a rise in value.

Example of Interest rate risk

Existing investors with older bonds lose out on the higher interest payouts from the newly issued bonds. This creates an opportunity cost and makes older bonds with lower interest rates less attractive to investors. Consequently, the market values of such bonds decline.

For instance, say you hold government bonds worth Rs. 1,00,000 from an old tranche that pays interest at 6% per annum. The value of these investments would rise to Rs. 1,06,000 in one year (i.e. Rs. 1,00,000 + 6%).

Now, let us assume that due to rising interest rates, the government offers interest at the rate of 7.5% per annum on newly issued bonds. Rs. 1,00,000 worth of these new bonds would rise to Rs. 1,07,500 in one year. This means you lose out on Rs. 1,500 during the year because of the lower interest rate on your bond holdings.

Types of interest rate risk

Interest rate risk can manifest in different ways. Here are two common ways in which this risk affects investments. 

  1. Price risk
    This is the possibility of the price (or value) of a debt instrument reducing because of changing interest rates. It is the most common way in which interest rate risk affects fixed-income securities.
  2. Reinvestment risk
    Reinvestment risk is a component of interest rate risk that occurs when you are unable to reinvest your money at the same rate of return as your original investment. For instance, say you hold a bond that pays a high rate of interest, and it attains maturity. At this point, if the prevailing rates have decreased, you might have to reinvest the proceeds at a lower interest rate.

Ways to manage interest rate risk in mutual funds

Knowing the meaning of interest rate risk and understanding how it impacts mutual funds is the first step to becoming a smart investor. However, in addition to this, it is also crucial to be aware of how you can minimise Interest rate risk in your mutual fund portfolio. The following strategies can help you achieve this goal.

  • Diversification: Diversifying your portfolio is one of the most effective ways to minimise interest rate risk as well as other kinds of risk. Choose funds that hold bonds with varying maturities. Alternatively, you could also diversify your portfolio using hybrid mutual funds that invest in both debt and equity markets.
  • Choosing safer investments: Another way to manage this risk is to choose safer investments that benefit from interest rate changes. For instance, you could consider floating-rate funds that invest in floating-rate debt instruments. In these securities, the coupon rates are periodically adjusted based on the prevailing interest rates in the market. This reduces the interest rate risk because such instruments do not lose value when interest rates change. Alternatively, short-term debt instruments that are less sensitive to interest rate risk may also be suitable. This is because they may attain maturity even before the next interest rate change occurs. So, you could consider choosing debt mutual funds with short-term investment horizons to avoid being affected by this factor.
  • Interest rate hedging: Interest rate hedging is the process of using derivative instruments like options or interest rate swaps to offset the loss in value in your mutual fund portfolio due to interest rate risk. It involves taking an opposite position in the market so you can benefit from an increase in the interest rates.

High-return mutual fund categories for smart investing

Equity Mutual Funds

Hybrid Mutual Funds

Debt Mutual Funds

Tax Saving Mutual Funds

NFO Mutual Funds

Multi Cap Mutual Funds

 

Does interest rate risk matter to mutual fund investors?

Now that you know how interest rate risk works, you may be wondering if this risk matters to mutual fund investors. The short answer is yes. More specifically, debt-oriented mutual funds that mainly hold debt instruments and fixed-income securities are particularly affected by interest rate changes.

This is because the values of the securities in the fund’s asset mix are impacted by rising and falling interest rates. If you are planning to invest in debt funds, you need to factor in the Interest rate risk. While the fund’s value may not be susceptible to stock market volatility, it is likely to change significantly as the central bank revises the interest rates.

Factors that affect interest rate risk

A company or entity’s vulnerability to interest rate changes is inherently tied to many different factors. Some of these aspects include the following:

  • Credit risk
    The credit risk measures the probability of a borrower defaulting on their debts. Increased credit risk leads to higher interest rates because lenders will aim to offset the higher risk of default by charging more interest. This, in turn, will raise borrowing costs and decrease bond prices. So, if a company’s credit rating declines, its bond prices may drop as investors will start to expect higher yields to compensate for the increased risk.
  • Duration of the loan
    Typically, the longer the duration of a loan, the more it is affected by interest rates. Since bonds are essentially debts offered by the bondholders to the bond issuers, long-term bonds are more sensitive to interest rate change. This is why a 1% increase in interest rates causes a larger price dip in long-duration bonds than in short-term debt securities. So, the interest rate risk is higher for long-term bondholders.
  • Forex rates
    Forex rates are the exchange rates between different currencies. Typically, this affects the values of bonds issued by companies with international debts. It also affects international debt investments. Rising interest rates may lead to currency appreciation. This, in turn, impacts the value of foreign investments. Furthermore, the converse is also true, and any adverse forex rate changes may also amplify interest rate risks.
  • Market-related factors
    In addition to the above factors, many market-related drivers also influence the interest rate risk of a debt instrument. They include general economic conditions, the policies of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the broad market sentiment. Inflationary pressures are also tied to the interest rate risk. If you are planning to invest in debt funds or debt instruments, you need to keep these factors in mind.

Conclusion

If you are a conservative investor, debt mutual funds can help you participate in the mutual fund market without amplifying your portfolio’s market-linked risk. However, you will still have to account for interest rate risk and other limitations of debt funds.

To reduce the impact of these risks, you could compare the mutual funds available on the Bajaj Finserv Mutual Fund Platform and select different schemes to strategically offset the limitations of debt funds. On this platform, you can browse through more than 1,000 mutual funds, filter through the options based on various parameters and identify the schemes that are the best fit for your portfolio. You can then make a lump sum investment or start a SIP in the funds you choose.

Essential tools for mutual fund investors

Mutual Fund Calculator SIP Calculator Lumpsum Calculator Step Up SIP Calculator
SBI SIP Calculator HDFC SIP Calculator Nippon India SIP Calculator ABSL SIP Calculator
Tata SIP Calculator BOI SIP Calculator Motilal Oswal Mutual Fund SIP Calculator Kotak Bank SIP Calculator

Frequently asked questions

What is the meaning of interest rate risk?
The definition of interest rate risk is that it is the possibility of an investment losing value due to changes in the interest rates. It typically affects fixed-income investments like debt instruments.
What is the formula to calculate interest rate risk?
You can measure the interest rate risk by computing the percentage change in the bond's price due to the change in interest rates. This reflects the interest rate risk associated with holding the bond. The price change, in this case, is calculated as the difference between the old and the new price relative to the old price.
Do equity investments carry any interest rate risk?
No, equity investments are not directly affected by interest rate changes. However, if the companies issuing these stocks are affected, their equity may be indirectly impacted by such changes.
Is interest rate risk the same as credit risk?
No, it is not. The interest rate risk is the risk of an asset losing value when the interest rates change. The credit risk, on the other hand, is the risk of the borrower not repaying the dues on the debt instrument.
How to manage interest rate risk?
You can manage interest rate risk by diversifying your portfolio or using hedging techniques to offset this risk.
What investments are affected by interest rate risk?
Typically, debt instruments and fixed-income securities are directly impacted by changes in interest rates and are vulnerable to interest rate risk.
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Disclaimer

Bajaj Finance Limited (“BFL”) is an NBFC offering loans, deposits and third-party wealth management products.

The information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute any financial advice. The content herein has been prepared by BFL on the basis of publicly available information, internal sources and other third-party sources believed to be reliable. However, BFL cannot guarantee the accuracy of such information, assure its completeness, or warrant such information will not be changed. 

This information should not be relied upon as the sole basis for any investment decisions. Hence, User is advised to independently exercise diligence by verifying complete information, including by consulting independent financial experts, if any, and the investor shall be the sole owner of the decision taken, if any, about suitability of the same.