Lock in loans at current rates, advises DBS chief Gupta

Interest rates in the US and in turn, Singapore, are likely to pick up over the next one to two years, said DBS CEO Piyush Gupta.

This means now could be a particularly good time for borrowers to lock in loans at current interest rates.

Borrowers can look at switching from floating to fixed rate loans, added Mr Gupta.

But that is a hard appeal to make to Asian investors, who prefer not to fix their interest rates.

“In Asia, pardon me, but most of us tend to be punters…Anecdotally, the easiest way to think about this – We go to the US, the most popular mortgage in the US is the 30-year fixed rate mortgage. In Asia, we at DBS tried pushing two years ago a 5-year fixed rate mortgage…almost no takers. So Asians don’t like fixing, Asians don’t like hedging,” said Mr Gupta.

“However, given where we are in terms of our view in the world and the fact that there’s likely to be a steepening bias over 12, 24 months, I would suggest it might be worthwhile to think about it.”

Speaking at an event for his private bank clients, Mr Gupta also warned of risks brought about by over-borrowing in the Chinese economy.

Total borrowing in the economy currently makes up 214% of GDP, up from 170% of GDP in the 2000s.

Mr Gupta said: “It is not impossible that some small state-owned enterprises, some small regional banks go into an element of restructuring.

“They won’t let it go bankrupt but the restructuring might mean bail-in, might mean some creditors. And I think that will be part of this restructuring of the system over the next couple of years.

“So my thoughts on China is – I don’t think it will fall off a cliff, but since there will be winners and losers, you’d better be very thoughtful and careful about your selection of counterparties…who do you really do business with.”

Overall, Mr Gupta sees a “slow bias” in the economy in Asia. This is largely due to a restructuring in the Chinese economy, as policymakers opt for quality growth over high growth.

“If China runs at 7 or 7.5% (full year GDP growth), I think it always spills over into our part of the world. There will be some volatility and up and down – Singapore surprised with the latest GDP number – but overall I really see a slow bias in the economy in this part of the world,” said Mr Gupta.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 15 July 2013

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