High Inflation Likely Pushed Household Financial Savings to 30-Year Low in H1 of FY23: Report

Despite the lower gross financial savings, the liabilities of households increased to 5% of the GDP in the first half of FY23, indicating people may have borrowed to spend on basic needs.

New Delhi: Indian households are saving less, a recent report has said, adding that high inflation may have pushed consumers to dip into their savings to make purchases.

According to Motilal Oswal Securities, the net financial savings of households is estimated to have fallen to a three-decade low at around Rs 5.2 trillion in the first half of this fiscal year.

Household net financial savings stood at Rs 17.2 trillion in FY22, the report said.

This suggests that the savings were used for consumption, which has held up fairly well, the Financial Express reported.

Nikhil Gupta, the chief economist at the brokerage, told the newspaper that despite the lower gross financial savings, the liabilities of households increased to 5% of the GDP in the first half of FY23.

In FY22 as well, the liabilities of households rose by Rs 6 trillion to Rs 83.65 trillion, data from the Reserve Bank of India showed. A rise in debt suggests people may have borrowed to spend on basic needs and also to pay off any past loans.

The consumption of goods and services is the key driver of the economy, but it appears that people are eating into their savings for buying essentials.

According to the first advanced estimates of the GDP, private final consumption expenditure, which is a proxy for household consumption, is expected to grow 7.7% in FY23. However, analysts told Business Standard that the consumption demand is highly skewed in favour of goods and services consumed largely by households falling in the upper-income bracket.

The Economic Survey released in 2022 suggested the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted consumer demand in favour of essential goods. It suggested that discretionary purchases, at least for middle-class households, have taken a backseat.

Also read: Four Reasons Why 2023 Is Starting on a Grim Note for India’s Economy

The Financial Express quoted Kotak Institutional Equities analysts saying that a combination of factors, including a slowdown in new hiring, the waning of pent-up demand, high inflation sapping household savings and an increase in mortgage EMIs, have impacted demand across discretionary categories, with a few exceptions.

Interestingly, despite companies raising the prices of essential products, including biscuits and soaps, demand has not fallen. Bloomberg reported in April last year that companies are passing on higher prices to consumers as they are running out of capacity to absorb rising input costs due to the global supply squeeze.

But the companies passing on the costs will also add to inflationary pressures, thereby increasing the cost of living standards in India.

The business daily, citing the report, said that while the trend could reverse if savings don’t pick up meaningfully in the coming quarters, both consumption and investments could be impacted.

The savings rate in India, comprising mainly of household savings, is very important for determining the level of investment in the economy.

Jahangir Aziz, chief economist (emerging markets) at JP Morgan, had written in the Financial Express that there could be several reasons for the fall in private savings, but clearly falling household and small company incomes must be a key cause. However, he said that the trend is unlikely to reverse next year. If it doesn’t, the pressure on the current account deficit – which is already at an all-time high – would intensify.