Excerpts from the RBI Press Release:
The October bi-monthly statement projected inflation to rise and range between 4.2-4.6 per cent in the second half of this year, including the impact of increase in house rent allowance (HRA) by the Centre. The headline inflation outcomes have evolved broadly in line with projections. Going forward, the inflation path will be influenced by several factors. First, moderation in inflation excluding food and fuel observed in Q1 of 2017-18 has, by and large, reversed. There is a risk that this upward trajectory may continue in the near-term. Second, the impact of HRA by the Central Government is expected to peak in December. The staggered impact of HRA increases by various state governments may push up housing inflation further in 2018, with attendant second order effects. Third, the recent rise in international crude oil prices may sustain, especially on account of the OPEC’s decision to maintain production cuts through next year. In such a scenario, any adverse supply shock due to geo-political developments could push up prices even further. Despite recent increase in prices of vegetables, some seasonal moderation is expected in near months as winter arrivals kick in. Prices of pulses have continued to show a downward bias. The GST Council in its last meeting has brought several retail goods and services to lower tax brackets, which should translate into lower retail prices, going forward. On the whole, inflation is estimated in the range 4.3-4.7 per cent in Q3 and Q4 of this year, including the HRA effect of up to 35 basis points, with risks evenly balanced.
Q2 growth was lower than that projected in the October resolution. The recent increase in oil prices may have a negative impact on margins of firms and GVA growth. Shortfalls in kharif production and rabi sowing pose downside risks to the outlook for agriculture. On the positive side, there has been some pick up in credit growth in recent months. Recapitalisation of public sector banks may help improve credit flows further. While there has been weakness in some components of the services sector such as real estate, the Reserve Bank’s survey indicates that the services and infrastructure sectors are expecting an improvement in demand, financial conditions and the overall business situation in Q4. Taking into account the above factors, the projection of real GVA growth for 2017-18 of the October resolution at 6.7 per cent has been retained, with risks evenly balanced.
The MPC notes that the evolving trajectory needs to be carefully monitored. First, two of the key factors determining the cost of living conditions and inflation expectations, i.e., food and fuel inflation, edged up in November. Inflation expectations of households surveyed by the Reserve Bank have already firmed up and any increase in food and fuel prices may further harden these expectations. Second, rising input cost conditions as reflected in various surveys point towards higher risk of pass-through to retail prices in the near term. Third, implementation of farm loan waivers by select states, partial roll back of excise duty and VAT in the case of petroleum products, and decrease in revenue on account of reduction in GST rates for several goods and services may result in fiscal slippage with attendant implications for inflation. Fourth, global financial instability on account of the pace of/uncertainty over monetary policy normalisation in AEs and fiscal expansion in the US carry risks for inflation. The expected seasonal moderation in prices of vegetables, and fruits and the recent lowering of tax rates by the GST Council could mitigate upside pressures.