India Leaves Rates Unchanged

The Reserve Bank of India unexpectedly left its key policy rate steady at 6.5 percent on October 5th 2018, following a 25bps hike in the previous meeting, surprising markets that expected a similar rise to support a falling currency and curb inflationary pressures from oil prices. Policymakers said the decision is consistent with a calibrated tightening that aims to achieve a 4 percent +/- 2 percent inflation target and support growth. The reverse repo rate was also left at 6.25 percent and the marginal standing facility rate and the Bank Rate at 6.75 percent each.
RBI | Joana Taborda | 10/5/2018 9:40:12 AM
The central bank cut its inflation forecasts, mentioning low food inflation: to 4 percent from 4.6 percent in Q2:2018-19 (July-September 2018); to 3.9 percent-4.5 percent from 4.8 percent in H2 (October 2018-March 2019); and to 4.8 percent from 5 percent in Q1:2019-2020 (April-June 2019).

Growth projections were also revised slightly lower: to 7.4 percent from 7.5 percent in Q2:2018-2019 (July-September 2018); to 7.1 percent-7.3 percent from 7.3 percent-7.4 percent in H2 (October 2018-March 2019); and to 7.4 percent from 7.5 percent in Q1:2019-2020 (April-June 2019). 

The reverse repo rate was also left at 6.25 percent and the marginal standing facility rate and the Bank Rate at 6.75 percent each.

Excerpts from the RBI Press Release:

Going forward, the inflation outlook is expected to be influenced by several factors. First, food inflation has remained unusually benign, which imparts a downward bias to its trajectory in the second half of the year. Inflation in key food items such as pulses, edible oils, sugar, fruits and vegetables remains exceptionally soft at this juncture. The risk to food inflation from spatially and temporally uneven rainfall is also mitigated, as confirmed by the first advance estimates that have placed production of major kharif crops for 2018-19 higher than last year’s record. An estimate of the impact of an increase in minimum support prices (MSPs) announced in July has been factored in the baseline projections. Secondly, the price of the Indian basket of crude oil has increased sharply, by US$ 13 a barrel, since the last resolution. Thirdly, international financial markets remained volatile with EME currencies depreciating significantly. Finally, the HRA effect came off its peak in June and is dissipating gradually on expected lines. Taking all these factors into consideration, inflation is projected at 4.0 per cent in Q2:2018-19, 3.9-4.5 per cent in H2 and 4.8 per cent in Q1:2019-20, with risks somewhat to the upside. Excluding the HRA impact, CPI inflation is projected at 3.7 per cent in Q2:2018-19, 3.8 - 4.5 per cent in H2 and 4.8 per cent in Q1:2019-20.

Turning to the growth outlook, the GDP print of Q1:2018-19 was significantly higher than that projected in the August resolution. Private consumption has remained robust and is likely to be sustained even as the recent rise in oil prices may have a bearing on disposable incomes. Improving capacity utilisation, larger FDI inflows and increased financial resources to the corporate sector augur well for investment activity. However, both global and domestic financial conditions have tightened, which may dampen investment activity. Rising crude oil prices and other input costs may also drag down investment activity by denting profit margins of corporates. This adverse impact will be alleviated to the extent corporates are able to pass on increases in their input costs. Uncertainty surrounds the outlook for exports. Tailwinds from the recent depreciation of the rupee could be muted by the slowing down of global trade and the escalating tariff war. Based on an overall assessment, GDP growth projection for 2018-19 is retained at 7.4 per cent as in the August resolution (7.4 per cent in Q2 and 7.1-7.3 per cent in H2), with risks broadly balanced; the path in the August resolution was 7.5 per cent in Q2:2018-19 and 7.3-7.4 per cent in H2. GDP growth for Q1:2019-20 is now projected marginally lower at 7.4 per cent as against 7.5 per cent in the August resolution, mainly due to the strong base effect.

India Leaves Rates Unchanged