The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is likely to reduce the cost of money for the second time in as many months as mounting concerns over a global economic slowdown, particularly in the US, and its impact on the emerging markets make investors rather wary of fresh investments into capital assets.
According to an ET survey of 26 market participants, an overwhelming majority expect a quarter percentage point reduction in the repo, or the rate at which banks borrow short-term money, when the central bank concludes its monetary policy review Thursday. The repo is now set at 6.25 per cent.
“Global economic conditions point to a synchronised growth slowdown, dampening oil prices,” said Gaurav Kapur, chief economist at IndusInd BankNSE -0.05 %. “This in turn will strengthen RBI’s rate-cut call as inflation is unlikely to spring a negative surprise over the next couple of quarters. RBI will focus more on ensuring future liquidity support to make the transmission of rate cuts more effective.”
Two participants, including Aditya Birla Mutual Fund, believe that RBI would not alter the rates. In its February bi-monthly policy, it reduced the repo by 25 basis points. A basis point is one hundredth of a percentage point
Earlier in March, global rating company Fitch cut India’s FY19 GDP growth forecast to 7.2 per cent from 7.8 per cent in December. It also reduced the FY20 growth forecast to 6.8 per cent from its erstwhile estimate of 7 per cent, citing weaker-than-expected momentum in the economy. India’s GDP growth slowed to 6.6 per cent in the December quarter.
“Economic activity is showing signs of strain, and (those signs are) visible in weaker consumption proxies and sectors previously served by non-bank credit,” said Radhika Rao, economist at DBS Bank, Singapore. “The Monetary Policy Committee is on course to cut policy rates for a second consecutive time in April, retaining the distinction of being the first regional central bank that has returned to a policy easing cycle this year.”
During the last policy announcement in February, the central bank forecast GDP growth for 2019-20 at 7.4 per cent, with risks evenly balanced. It revised downward the consumer inflation prediction to 2.8 per cent in the fourth-quarter of FY19, from 2.7-3.2 per cent forecast earlier. The projection for H1 in FY20 is at 3.2-3.4 per cent, with risks broadly balanced around the central trajectory.
Separately, the first inversion of the US yield curve in 12 years has also stoked concerns of a slowdown – perhaps even an imminent recession in the world’s biggest economy. The US Federal Reserve has also hinted at easing its monetary policy.
More than a fourth of the respondents expect the Monetary Policy Committee to leave its rate stance unchanged at “Neutral”, which offers policy experts the flexibility to either cut or raise rates in response to the most current set of statistics.
But risks to inflation have still not faded fully due to fiscal expansion and the uncertainty over crop yields.
ICICI BankNSE -1.27 % expects FY20 GDP to expand at 7.2 per cent, with a slight downward bias. Inflation could average 3.8 per cent year-on-year.
“The growth-inflation mix has opened up the space for policy accommodation, although further action beyond April would be data-dependent,” said B Prasanna, head-global markets group at ICICI Bank.
Consumer prices rose 2.57 per cent in February this year compared with 1.97 per cent in January. But prices are well below the RBI’s medium-term target of 4 per cent.
“The stage is ripe for a bigger rate cut,” said Soumya Kanti Ghosh, group chief economic advisor, economic research department, State Bank of India. “If the rate cut is of 25 bps only, the RBI could then indicate more cuts through a possible shift in its stance/policy statement.”