RBI Releases Bi-monthly Monetary Policy

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RBI on Sept 29 released Fourth Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement. RBI’s noted the following main ponits in its policy:

Since the third bi-monthly statement of August 2015, global growth has moderated, especially in emerging market economies (EMEs), global trade has deteriorated further and downside risks to growth have increased.

Since the Chinese devaluation, equity prices, commodities and currencies have fallen sharply. Capital flight from EMEs into mature bond markets has pushed down developed market yields, and risk spreads across asset classes have widened.

Although volatility ebbed in early September and capital flows returned cautiously to some EMEs, sentiment in financial markets remains fragile.

The September 17 decision of the Federal Open Market Committee to stay on hold in response to global conditions and weak domestic inflation lifted financial markets briefly, but overall financial conditions are yet to stabilise.

In India, a tentative economic recovery is underway, but is still far from robust. In agriculture, sown area has expanded modestly from a year ago, reflecting the timely and robust onset of the monsoon in June, but the southwest monsoon is currently deficient by 14 per cent – with production-weighted rainfall deficiency at 20 per cent.

rbiNevertheless, the first advance estimates indicate that food grain production is expected to be higher than last year, reflecting actions taken to contain the adverse effects of rain deficiency through timely advisories and regular monitoring of seed and fertiliser availability.

Allied farm activities, which are more insulated from the monsoon, remain resilient and could partly offset the effects of adverse weather on crop production. Rural demand, however, remains subdued as reflected in still shrinking tractor and two-wheeler sales.

Manufacturing has exhibited uneven growth in April-July, with industrial activity slowing sequentially in July, although it has been in expansionary mode for the ninth month in succession. Industries such as apparel, furniture and motor vehicles have experienced acceleration.

Furthermore, the resumption of growth in production of consumer durables in recent months, after a protracted period of contraction over the last two years, is indicative of some pick-up in consumption demand, primarily in urban areas.

Since RBI’s last review, however, external demand conditions have turned weaker, suggesting a more persistent drag from lower exports and cheaper imports due to global overcapacity. This contributes to continuing domestic capacity under-utilisation, decelerating new orders and a rising ratio of finished goods inventories to sales.

As a result of still tepid aggregate demand, output price growth is weak, but input material costs have fallen further, leading to an increase in margins for most producers. Weak aggregate demand appears to have more than offset the effect of higher margins to hold back new investment intentions.

In the services sector, construction activity is weakening as reflected in low demand for cement and the large inventory of unsold residential houses in some localities. Rising public expenditure on roads, ports and eventually railways could, however, provide some boost to construction going forward. Lead indicators relating to freight and passenger traffic are mixed.

In August, the services PMI remained in expansion for the second consecutive month on improving new business, but business expectations remain subdued.

Headline consumer price index (CPI) inflation reached its lowest level in August since November 2014. The ebbing of inflation in the year so far is due to a combination of low month-on-month increases in prices and favourable base effects. Overall year-on-year food inflation dropped sharply, led by vegetables and sugar. Cereal inflation moderated steadily during April-August, but price pressures in respect of pulses and onions remained elevated.

CPI inflation excluding food and fuel eased in August for the second consecutive month, primarily due to the decline in petrol and diesel prices pulling down inflation in transportation. Fares other than for air transport have, however, remained inflexible downwards.

Inflation in house rentals increased, but was more than offset by some moderation in the heterogeneous category of services, including education, personal care and effects, and health. Inflation expectations of households remained elevated in double digits likely in response to recent month-on-month increases in the prices of vegetables and pulses.

Liquidity conditions eased considerably during August to mid-September. In addition to structural factors such as deposit mobilisation in excess of credit flow, lower currency demand and pick-up in spending by the government contributed to the surplus liquidity.

With the weakening of growth prospects in EMEs and world trade volume growth falling below world GDP growth, India’s merchandise exports continued to decline in the first two months of Q2. Imports values also declined, but the sharp fall in international crude oil and gold prices was offset by rising import volumes.

Non-oil non-gold imports went back into contraction after recording a marginal pick-up in the previous quarter, although there were higher imports of fertilisers, electronics and pulses.

With services exports moderating, the widening of the merchandise trade deficit could lead to a modest increase in the current account deficit (CAD) during Q2. Net capital inflows were buoyed by sustained foreign direct investment and accretion to non-resident deposits, and reduced by portfolio outflows, mainly from equity markets. Foreign exchange reserves rose by US $ 10.4 billion during the first half of 2015-16.

MONETARY AND LIQUIDITY MEASURES TAKEN BY RBI

On the basis of an above assessment of the current and evolving macroeconomic situation, it has been decided to:

  1. Reduce the policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) by 50 basis points from 7.25 per cent to 6.75 per cent with immediate effect;
  2. Keep the cash reserve ratio (CRR) of scheduled banks unchanged at 4.0 per cent of net demand and time liability (NDTL);
  3. Continue to provide liquidity under overnight repos at 0.25 per cent of bank-wise NDTL at the LAF repo rate and liquidity under 14-day term repos as well as longer term repos of up to 0.75 per cent of NDTL of the banking system through auctions; and
  4. Continue with daily variable rate repos and reverse repos to smooth liquidity.

Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the LAF stands adjusted to 5.75 per cent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate to 7.75 per cent.

The fifth bi-monthly monetary policy statement will be announced on December 1, 2015.

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