Money Market in India

Money market is an important segment of the financial market (system) as it provides avenue for equilibrating the short term (ranging from overnight upto an year) demand for and supply of funds. It also plays an important role in the transmission mechanism of monetary policy, as it acts as a medium through which the central bank can influence the short term liquidity and interest rates in the financial system.

Till the mid 1980s the Indian money markets was characterized by scarcity of instruments, stringent regulations pertaining to participants and interest rates, lack of depth and liquidity. Another drawback in the Indian money market during this period was existence of a large number of lenders and only a few chronic borrowers. Infact the basic requirement of a liquid and deep market that the participants should rotate between borrowing and lending activity was missing.

However RBI took many measures to deepen and widen the money market in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee to Review the Working of the Monetary System (Chairman: Professor Sukhamoy Chakravarty) [1985] and the Working Group on the Money Market (Chairman: Shri N. Vaghul) [1987]. These measures included the deregulation of money markets interest rates, introduction of new money markets instruments such as certificates of deposits (June 1989), commercial paper (Jan 1990) etc.

Also the RBI gradually eased the barriers to entry and initiated measure to increase the number of participants in the Money Market. RBI in a ssociation with the public sector banks and financial institution had set up the Discount and Finance House of India Ltd. (DFHI) in April 1988 in order to impart liquidity to the financial instruments. Thus financial innovations in terms of money markets instruments, broadening of participants' base and strengthening of institutional infrastructure were undertaking during the 1990s based on the Vaghul Committee's framework.

Further during the late 1990s the Narasimham committee (1998) recommended rationalization of the money market by ensuring participation of different classes of entities in various segments of money market. RBI has over the years taken many structural measures and instrument-specific measures like transformation of call money market into pure interbank market, bringing down the minimum maturity of the CDs to 7 days etc. to develop the money market in pursuance of the Narasimham committee recommendations.

Also a fullfledged liquidity Adjustment Facility was introduced on June 5, 2000 which replaced the traditional refinance support on fixed terms. The LAF was operationalised with a view to alter short term liquidity conditions as per the market conditions. In wake to strengthen the payment system infrastructure the Clearing Corporation of India Ltd. (CCIL) was formed in 2001. Also the introduction of the Negotiated Dealing System (NDS) in February 2002 and implementation of the Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system in March 2004 further improved the efficiency in the money market.


These policy initiatives undertaken over time have led to the growth and sophistication of Indian money market, making it relatively deep, liquid and vibrant. Also the activity in all the segments of the Indian money market has increased significantly, especially during last few years. Currently the major segments of the Indian money market are

  • Call (overnight) and Short-notice (up to fourteen days) Money Market
  • Treasury Bills Market.
  • Repos Market
  • Term Money Market
  • Collateralised borrowing and lending obligation (CBLO)
  • Commercial Paper (CP)
  • Certificates of Deposit (CDs)

Money Market Mutual Funds (MMMFs)

Among these, call and short-notice money and Treasury Bills form the most important segments of the Indian money market. Let us discuss each of these in brief:

Call/Notice Money market

The call money market is one of the most important and active segment of the Indian Money Market. Over the years RBI has taken many measures for development of the call/term money market. During the 1990s measures were taken to widen the participation of the call money market to include primary & satellite dealers & corporate (through primary dealers) in addition to the existing participants like commercial banks co-operative banks, LIC, UTI, etc. However the Narasimham committee recommended the conversion of the call/notice money market in a pure inter-bank market on prudential considerations and with an objective to improve the monetary transmission mechanism.

Thus in accordance with the Narasimham committee recommendations (1998), measures were taken to convert the call market into a pure inter bank market starting in 1999. Simultaneously steps were taken to develop a repo market outside the official window for providing a stable collateralised avenue for deployment of funds by the non-banks following their phased exit from the call money market. Also introduction of instruments such as Collateralised Borrowing and Lending Obligation further provided the banks and non banks with a funding alternative.

Consequently the call money market was transformed into a pure inter bank market in August 2005. Reflecting the conscious decision on the part of the RBI to make the call/notice money market a pure inter bank, the average daily turnover, which stood at around Rs. 351.44 bn in FY02, almost halved to Rs. 141.70 bn in FY04. However it increased in the subsequent years and was Rs.217.25 bn during FY07.

The operational efficiency in the call money market was improved with the establishment of the CCIL and operationalisation of NDS. Furthermore the RBI made it mandatory for the all the NDS members to report all the call/notice money market transaction carried out through NDS within 15 minutes of winding up of the transaction. This helped in increasing efficiency, transparency and improve price discovery in the money market. In order to further increase the transparency and facilitate better price discovery CCIL developed a screen based negotiated dealing quote-driven system for all dealings in the call/notice and the term money markets (NDSCALL). This system was made operational on September 18, 2006.

Further the RBI has over the years carried out many reform measures such as adoption of Liquidity Adjustment Facilities (LAF) etc. in order to impart stability in the call money market. In the 1990s the call rates were generally stable barring a few episodes of volatility. Tight liquidity condition in the call money market, backed by high levels of statutory pre-emptions and withdrawal of all refinance facilities except the export credit, led to firming up of the call rates during the beginning of FY92. Infact the call rate touched a peak of 35% in May 1992.

After that the call rates eased for some period and again firmed up to touch 35% in November 1995. This was partly a reflection of the turmoil in the foreign exchange market. Inorder to stabilize the market the RBI injected liquidity in the system through repos, increased refinance facilities and provided some respite by reducing the CRR. With RBI sucking out liquidity to ease foreign exchange market pressure the call rates, which had eased to single digit levels, again firmed up to 29% in January 1998.

The adoption of the LAF in June 2000 has helped the call rates to ease. The call rate eased significantly to a low of 4.5 percent in September 2004, backed by improved liquidity conditions on account of increased capital inflows. However on account of IMD redemptions the call rates came under some pressure in December 2005. It increased to around 7% during Feb 2007 partly influenced by the tight monetary policy stance by the RBI to curb high inflation.

With the initiation of the LAF and subsequent improvement in liquidity management a considerable degree of stability has been imparted in the call money market. Since then the volatility in call rates has reduced significantly. According to the RBI the mean rate has almost halved from around 11 per cent during April 1993-March 1996 to about 6 per cent during April 2000-March 2007. Volatility, measured by coefficient of variation (CV) of call rates, also halved from 0.6 to 0.3 over the same period.

It is important to note here that the in the pre-reform period the statutory requirements like CRR and SLR and reserve maintenance period have been the main driver of the call rates. However in the recent years the developments in other market segments, mainly the foreign exchange and the government securities market accompanied by the Reserve Bank's liquidity management operations have been the major factors influencing the call rates. This signifies increased market integration and improved liquidity management by the Reserve Bank.

Term Money Market

Term Money Market, which is market for short-term funds of maturity between 15 days to 1 year, is not very well developed in India. Till the late 1980s, the term money market was governed by stringent norms in terms of participants, regulated interest rates etc. However the RBI has taken many measures over the years to develop this market. The administered interest rate system was dismantled in 1989 following the recommendations of vaghul committee.

Further in 1993 select financial institutions (IDBI, ICICI, IFCI, IIBI, SIDBI, EXIM Bank, NABARD, IDFC and NHB) were allowed to borrow from the term money market for 3-6 months maturity, however within a fixed limit set for each institution. Also Term money of original maturity between 15 days and 1 year was exempted from the CRR in August 2001. Although many measures were taken by the RBI to develop the term money market, the activity (as reflected in the daily turnover) in this segment of money market continues to remain low. The average daily turnover in the term money market has increased moderately from Rs.195 crore in FY02 to Rs.1,012 crore during FY07.

The development of the term money market has been impeded by confluence of factors-

(i) the inability of participants to build interest rate expectations over the medium term due to which there is a tendency on their part to lock themselves in the short-term; (ii) the distribution of liquidity is also skewed with public sector banks often having surplus funds and foreign banks being in deficit in respect of short-term resources. Since the deficit banks depend heavily on call/notice money, more often, surplus banks exhaust their exposure limits to them; (iii) corporates' overwhelming preference for 'cash credit' system rather than 'loan' generally forces banks to deploy a large amount in the call/notice money market rather than in the term money market to meet sudden demand from corporates; (iv) the steady reduction in the minimum maturity period of term deposits offered by banks; and (v) the tendency on the part of banks to deploy their surplus funds in LAF auctions rather than in the term money market, reflecting risk-averse behaviour.

Repos Market

Repo is a money market instrument, which enables collateralised short-term borrowing and lending through sale/purchase operations in debt instruments. In this segment, mutual funds and some foreign banks are the major providers of funds, while some foreign banks, private sector banks and primary dealers are the major borrowers. Over the years RBI has taken many measures to reform the Repo market, which was highly regulated both in terms of participants and instruments till the late 1980s. Before April 1988 all government securities and PSU bonds were eligible for repo transactions.

However with the alarmingly high growth in repos RBI became cautious and prohibited the participation of non-banks in the repo market. RBI permitted only interbank repos in all government securities between April 1988 and mid-June 1992 in order to avoid any undesirable developments on account of the large scale misuse of repos. The Janakiraman Committee, set up following the securities market irregularities of 1992, reported that despite of being prohibited virtually all wholesale participants of the money and not only banks widely used the repos. Also many other irregularities were in the repo markets were bought to the forefront, following which the repos were prohibited in all the securities barring the treasury bills.

However in wake to revive the repo market and noting the usefulness of repos in development of money market, RBI gradually bought all Central Government dated securities, Treasury Bills and State Government securities under the purview of repo market. Furthermore, with the view to broaden the repo market PSU bonds and private corporate securities have been made eligible for repos in 1997-98.

Further RBI introduced the delivery versus payment system during FY96, with an aim to facilitate the repo transactions and increase transparency in the repo market. Nonbank entities which maintained subsidiary general ledger (SGL) account were permitted to participate in the repo market. Since March 2003, the non-bank financial companies, mutual funds, housing finance companies and insurance companies not having SGL account were permitted to transact in the repo market through their gilt accounts maintained with the custodian.

With the increase in use of repos as money market instrument the comprehensive uniform accounting guidelines as well as documentation policy were issued by the RBI in March 2003. In addition to this the DvP III mode of settlement in government securities (which involves settlement of securities and funds on a net basis) was operationalised in April 2004. This helped the introduction of rollover of repo transactions in government securities and offered greater flexibility to participants in managing their collaterals.

The Liquidity Adjustment Facility (LAF), that was introduced from June 5, 2000, has also helped in development of the repo market. Further the gradual phasing out of nonbanks (August 2005) from the call money market, has provided further impetus to the repo market. This is evident from the sharp increase in the average daily turnover of repo transactions (other than the Reserve Bank) from Rs.11,311 crore during April 2001 to Rs. 42,252 crore in June 2006.

Treasury Bills Market

T-Bills are issued by the RBI on behalf of the Government of India and thus are actually a class of Government Securities. Presently T-Bills are issued in maturity periods of 91 days, 182 days and 364 days through an auction based system and form one of the most active segments of the Indian money market. However prior to the initiation of reforms, only the 91-day Treasury bills were sold through fixed coupon or tap system.

Also ad hoc treasury bills were issued by the government in order to meet the temporary mismatch in revenue and expenditure. Although these were meant for temporary purpose they became attractive source of meeting the central government resource requirement as they were available at an interest rate pegged at 4.6% per annum since 1974. However due to administered nature of interest rate the 91-day treasury bills could not emerge as useful instruments in the money market.

But with initiation of the reform measures in the late 1980s T-bills market has emerged as an important segment of the money market. The reform process in the t-bills market was initiated in November 1986 with the introduction of 182 days treasury bills. The formation of DFHI also helped in emergence of treasury bills market as important segment of the money market. Further impetus was provided to the development of the treasury bills market by the phasing out of the tap treasury bills and introduction of auctioning system in the 91-treasury.

Another important reform in the treasury bills market was the abolition of the ad hoc treasury bills in April 1997. Further the introduction of 14-day intermediate treasury bills helped in improving the cash management of the government. Thus, Treasury bills of different tenors were introduced to consolidate the market for imparting liquidity, while yields were made market determined through auctions so that they could be used as benchmark for other short-term market instruments.

Treasury Bills market has received special attention of RBI over the years as it is at the heart of the money market development. The amounts assigned for auctions are announced in advance since April 1998. Also the payments dates are synchronized on the following Friday after the auctions inorder to provide fungible stock of varying maturities and to activate the secondary market in Treasury Bills. The primary dealers provide their bid daily and offer discount rates so that the investors are able to acquire treasury bills even in between the auctions.

Type of T-bills



91 days Ad-hoc T-Bill

Mid 1950s

April, 1997

91 days T-Bill on Tap

Mid 1950s

March, 1997

182 days T-Bill on weekly auction


April, 1992

14 days T-Bill on weekly auction

April, 1997

May, 2001

364 days T-Bill on fortnightly auction

April, 1992

91 days T-Bill on weekly auction


182 days T-Bill on weekly auction

Re-introduced in June, 1999

May, 2001

182 days T-Bill on weekly auction

Re-introduced in April, 2005

The primary dealers provide their bid daily and offer discount rates so that the investors are able to acquire treasury bills even in between the auctions.

Commercial Paper (CP):

Commercial paper was introduced in India in January 1990, in accordance with the recommendations of the vaghul committee with an aim to provide additional avenues to the corporate to source short term funds. Commercial Paper (CP) is issued in the form of a promissory note sold directly by the issuers to investors, or else placed by the borrowers through agents such as merchant banks and security houses. Since CP is freely transferable, and highly liquid it provides the banks, financial institutions, insurance companies and others an attractive avenue to park their short term funds.

Over the years RBI has gradually relaxed the norms relating to eligibility, maturity period etc. for issuing CPs. Initially, corporates were allowed to issue CP with a maturity between 3 to 6 months from the date of issue. However the minimum tenor of the CP was reduced in phased manner. Currently the minimum tenor of the CP is seven days (effective October 2004). Also the minimum amount to be invested by a single investor, which was Rs.1 crore at time of introduction of CP, has been gradually brought down to 5 lakhs. This norm was gradually relaxed so as to align the CPs with other money market instruments.

These measures helped in the increasing activity in this segment of the money market. Initially the limit of CP issuance was carved out of the maximum permissible bank finance (MPBF) limit and consequently only to its cash credit part. However reducing proportion of cash credit in the MPBF was hindering the development of the CP market and hence issuance of CP was delinked from the cash credit limit in October 1997.

Further with a view to enable issuers of the service sector to meet their needs of short-term working capital, CP was transformed into a stand alone product. Initially, the individuals, banks, companies, other corporate bodies registered or incorporated in India and unincorporated bodies were allowed to issue and held the CP. Further issuance of the CP to non-residents on a non-repatriation basis was allowed however these CPs were non transferable. Also the FIIs were permitted to invest in the CPs since October 2000, but within the limit set by SEBI.

Further to improve the efficiency, rationalize & standardize the various aspects of processing and reduce the transaction cost many measures such as dematerialization of CPs (effective June 30, 2001) were undertaken by the RBI. It issued draft guidelines on securitisation of standard assets on April 4, 2005, with an aim to further deepen the market. Consequently the issuing and Paying agents were required to report the issuance of the CP on NDS platform commencing from April 16, 2005. Over the years the major issuers of CP have been the leasing and finance companies. Discount rates on CPs have firmed up in line with the increases in policy rates during 2005-06 and 2006-07.

It is advantageous for the corporate to raise funds through CPs during times of ample liquidity as the effective discount rates on CP tends to be lower than the banks lending rates. Also it is relatively profitable for banks to park their funds in the CPs during times of high liquidity as the interbank call rates tend to be lower than the CP rates. Thus the activity in the CP market reflects the liquidity condition in the money market. The average outstanding amount of CPs reduced from Rs. 22.80 bn during FY94 to Rs. 4.42 bn in FY96 on account of tight liquidity conditions in the money market. However the outstanding amount of CPs has increased in the recent years. It was Rs. 213.14 bn during FY07.

However the secondary market for CPs continues to remain subdued as the investors prefer to hold the instrument till maturity as it gives them a higher risk adjusted return compared to other instruments in the money market. The secondary market of CPs is more profitable for the Mutual funds as they are charged higher stamp duty for issuing a CP as compared to the banks.

Certificates of Deposits (CD)

CD were introduced in the Indian money market in June 1989, with an view to widen the range of instruments in the money market and provide additional avenue and greater flexibility to the investors to park their short term surplus funds. During the pre reform period the CDs were governed by a number of regulations in terms of maturity, issuance amounts, maturity etc. However many guidelines pertaining to the CDs have been relaxed in the post reform period.

The limit on issuance of the CD, which was earlier linked to the average fortnightly outstanding aggregate deposit, was abolished effective October 16, 1993. This was done with a view to enabling it as a market determined instrument. In order to align the CDs with other money market instruments the minimum maturity of the CDs has been reduced gradually to 7 days (April 2005). The minimum size of issuance was reduced from Rs 1 crore in 1989 to Rs. 1 lakh in June 2002. Also to provide flexibility and depth to the secondary market activity the restrictions pertaining to the minimum period for transferability were withdrawn over a period of time.

With a view to improve transparency and promote secondary market activity the banks were instructed to issue CDs to the financial institutions only in dematerialized form, effective June 30, 2002. Since October 2002 the banks were allowed to issue floating rate CDs as a coupon bearing instrument in order to promote flexible pricing. The reduction in stamp duty on CDs, effective March 1, 2004 and withdrawal of the facility of premature closure of deposits in respect of CDs were other factors that boosted activity in the market, providing greater opportunity for secondary market trading.

The activity in the CDs market is also depended on the liquidity conditions in the market as the CPs. Unlike the CPs the issuance of CDs increase in the time of tight liquidity conditions as the banks resort to issuance of CDs, often at premium, to meet their liquidity gap. For instance, the outstanding amount of CDs declined to Rs.949 crore during FY02 as compared to 1,199 crore, partly due to easy liquidity conditions on account of large capital inflows.

However the average outstanding amount of CDs increased gradually during the subsequent periods. The average outstanding amount of CDs had increased to Rs.64,814 crore during FY07 as banks resorted to issuance of CDs in order to support the robust credit demand. The interest rates on CDs which had softened in the recent years in line with other money market instruments experienced some hardening during FY07. However banks offer higher interest rates on CDs as compared to other instruments and hence it is profitable for the subscriber to hold the CDs till maturity. This infact is one of the reasons for subdued secondary market for the CDs.

Collateralised Borrowing and lending obligation:

The CCIL operationalised CBLO as a money market instrument on Jan 20, 2003 with an aim to provide an alternative avenue to the market participants, especially those who were phased out of the call money market, to manage their short term liquidity. This innovative product developed by the CCIL facilitates anonymous order matching system for efficient price discovery. High transparency and real time basis of deals in the CBLO have assisted in enhancing efficiency of the money market. With the conversion of the call money market in a pure interbank market since August 2005 and setting of prudential limits on lending and borrowing by banks and PDs in the call money market, the activity has shifted to CBLO segment as can be seen in the below chart.

The average daily turnover in the CBLO segment has registered an increase from Rs.515 crore in FY04 to Rs.32,390 crore during FY07. However the increase in turnover can be partly attributed to the increase in number of participants from 30 in July 2003 to 153 in March 2007. It is important to note here that the composition of market participants has also changed over the years. The mutual funds and insurance companies have emerged as the major lenders while the nationalized banks, PDs and non-financial companies as major borrowers during FY07.

As borrowings in the CBLO segment are fully collateralised, the rates in this segment are expected to be comparable with the repo rates. The movements in the daily average rates in the overnight call, the repo and the CBLO markets for the period from January 2003 to March 2007 show that CBLO rates moved between the call and the repo rates up to November 2003 due to a limited number of participants. From November 2003, the CBLO rates have aligned with the repo rates on account of increase in the number of participants.

Money Market Mutual Funds (MMMFs)

With an aim of bringing the money market within the reach of individual investors the MMMF were introduced in India in April 1991. However a detailed scheme of MMMFs was declared by the RBI in April 1992, thereby allowing the schedule commercial banks and public financial institutions to set up MMMFs, subject to some terms and conditions. However to provide flexibility, liquidity and depth to the market these restrictions were relaxed over a period of time.

For example the minimum lock in period for the units of MMMFs was brought down from 30 days to 15 days in May 1998. MMMFs were permitted to offer 'cheque writing facility' in a tie-up with banks in 1999-2000 in order to provide added liquidity to unit holders. MMMFs, which were under the purview of RBI, were bought under SEBIs regulations Since March 7, 2000. Also it is important to note that now banks are permitted to set up MMMFs only in form of trust as a separate entity. Also the MMMFs were permitted to invest in rated corporate bonds and debentures with a residual maturity of one year.