The Reserve Bank of India lowered its benchmark repo rate by 35 bps to 5.40 percent during its August meeting, while markets had forecast a smaller 25bps cut. This was the fourth straight rate cut so far this year, in an attempt to boost economic growth while the inflation outlook remains benign.
Excerpts from the RBI policy statement:
8/7/2019 9:47:28 AM
In the second bi-monthly monetary policy resolution of June 2019, CPI inflation was projected at 3.0-3.1 per cent for H1:2019-20 and 3.4-3.7 per cent for H2:2019-20, with risks broadly balanced. The actual headline inflation outcome for Q1:2019-20 at 3.1 per cent was in alignment with these projections. 18.
The baseline inflation trajectory for the next four quarters will be shaped by several factors. First, the uptick in food inflation may be sustained by price pressures in vegetables and pulses as more recent data suggest. Uneven spatial and temporal distribution of monsoon could exert some upward pressure on food items, though this risk is likely to be mitigated by the recent catch up in rainfall. Second, despite excess supply conditions, crude oil prices may likely remain volatile due to geo-political tensions in the Middle-East. Third, the outlook for CPI inflation excluding food and fuel remains soft. Manufacturing firms participating in the industrial outlook survey expect output prices to ease in Q2. Fourth, one year ahead inflation expectations of households polled by the Reserve Bank have moderated. Taking into consideration these factors and the impact of recent policy rate cuts, the path of CPI inflation is projected at 3.1 per cent for Q2:2019-20 and 3.5-3.7 per cent for H2:2019-20, with risks evenly balanced. CPI inflation for Q1:2020-21 is projected at 3.6 per cent.
In the MPC’s June resolution, real GDP growth for 2019-20 was projected at 7.0 per cent – in the range of 6.4-6.7 per cent for H1:2019-20 and 7.2-7.5 per cent for H2 – with risks evenly balanced. Various high frequency indicators suggest weakening of both domestic and external demand conditions. The Business Expectations Index of the Reserve Bank’s industrial outlook survey shows muted expansion in demand conditions in Q2, although a decline in input costs augurs well for growth. The impact of monetary policy easing since February 2019 is also expected to support economic activity, going forward. Moreover, base effects will turn favourable in H2:2019-20. Taking into consideration the above factors, real GDP growth for 2019-20 is revised downwards from 7.0 per cent in the June policy to 6.9 per cent – in the range of 5.8-6.6 per cent for H1:2019-20 and 7.3- 5 7.5 per cent for H2 – with risks somewhat tilted to the downside; GDP growth for Q1:2020-21 is projected at 7.4 per cent.
The MPC notes that inflation is currently projected to remain within the target over a 12-month ahead horizon. Since the last policy, domestic economic activity continues to be weak, with the global slowdown and escalating trade tensions posing downside risks. Private consumption, the mainstay of aggregate demand, and investment activity remain sluggish. Even as past rate cuts are being gradually transmitted to the real economy, the benign inflation outlook provides headroom for policy action to close the negative output gap. Addressing growth concerns by boosting aggregate demand, especially private investment, assumes the highest priority at this juncture while remaining consistent with the inflation mandate.