The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has left the repo rate unchanged at 6.50 percent; the cash reserve ratio has also been retained at 4 percent.
In the third bi-monthly monetary policy statement released on Tuesday (Aug. 9), RBI governor said that the inflation scenario is quite uncertain, given the divergent trends.
"The prospects for inflation excluding food and fuel are more uncertain; if the current softness in crude prices proves to be transient and as the output gap continues to close, inflation excluding food and fuel may likely trend upwards and counterbalance the benefit of the expected easing of food inflation," Rajan said.
Here is the full third bi-monthly monetary policy statement issued by Raghuram Rajan on Tuesday (Aug. 9):
Monetary and Liquidity Measures
On the basis of an assessment of the current and evolving macroeconomic situation, it has been decided to:
- keep the policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) unchanged at 6.5 per cent;
- keep the cash reserve ratio (CRR) of scheduled banks unchanged at 4.0 per cent of net demand and time liabilities (NDTL); and
- continue to provide liquidity as required but progressively lower the average ex ante liquidity deficit in the system from one per cent of NDTL to a position closer to neutrality.
- Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the LAF will remain unchanged at 6.0 per cent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate at 7.0 per cent.
- The recent sharper-than-anticipated increase in food prices has pushed up the projected trajectory of inflation over the rest of the year. Moreover, prices of pulses and cereals are rising and services inflation remains somewhat sticky.
- There are early indications, however, that prices of vegetables are edging down. Going forward, the strong improvement in sowing on the back of the monsoon's steady progress, along with supply management measures, augers well for the food inflation outlook.
- The prospects for inflation excluding food and fuel are more uncertain; if the current softness in crude prices proves to be transient and as the output gap continues to close, inflation excluding food and fuel may likely trend upwards and counterbalance the benefit of the expected easing of food inflation.
- In addition, the full implementation of the recommendations of the 7th central pay commission (CPC) on allowances will affect the magnitude of the direct effect of house rents on the CPI. On balance, inflation projections as given in the June bi-monthly statement, i.e. of a central trajectory towards 5 per cent by March 2017 with risks tilted to the upside, are retained.
- Risks to the inflation target of 5 per cent for March 2017 continue to be on the upside. Furthermore, while the direct statistical effect of house rent allowances under the 7th CPC's award may be looked through, its impact on inflation expectations will have to be carefully monitored so as to pre-empt a generalisation of inflation pressures.
- In terms of immediate outcomes, much will depend on the benign effects of the monsoon on food prices.
Retains FY17 GDP growth projection
- The current accommodative stance of monetary policy and comfortable liquidity conditions should also provide a congenial environment for the reinvigoration of aggregate demand conditions.
- However, successive downgrades of global growth projections by multilateral agencies and the continuing sluggishness in world trade points to further slackening of external demand going forward.
- Accordingly, the GVA growth projection for 2016-17 is retained at 7.6 per cent, with risks facing the economy at this juncture evenly balanced around it.
On external trade, foreign exchange reserves
- In the external sector, merchandise export growth moved into positive territory in June after eighteen months. This upturn was reasonably widespread, covering chemicals, marine products, handicraft, plastic, rice, electronic and engineering goods.
- On the other hand, imports continued to decline, albeit at a slower pace than in recent months. While lower crude oil prices continued to compress the POL import bill, domestic demand for gold remained muted, with domestic gold prices trading at a discount vis-a-vis international prices.
- Non-oil non-gold imports continued to shrink, pulled down by coal, fertilisers, ores, iron and steel and machinery and transport equipment. Cumulatively, the trade deficit narrowed in Q1 of 2016-17 on a year-on-year basis.
- Net receipts on account of services remained flat in April-May 2016, with net outflow under communication services and sluggish software earnings.
- The pace of foreign direct investment inflows slowed in the first two months of 2016-17, net portfolio flows were stronger after the Brexit vote, notwithstanding considerable volatility characterising these flows. The level of foreign exchange reserves rose to US$ 365.7 billion by August 5, 2016.
On global growth trends, commodity prices
- World trade remains sluggish in the first half of 2016. International financial markets did not anticipate the Brexit vote and equities plunged worldwide, currency volatility increased and investors herded into safe havens. Since then, however, equity markets have regained lost ground.
- Currencies, barring the pound sterling, have stabilised, with the yen appreciating the most on risk-on demand as well as the announcement of fresh stimulus. Yields on government bonds have fallen further and the universe of negative yielding assets is expanding at a fast pace, reflecting high risk aversion and expectations of further monetary accommodation by systemic central banks.
- Crude prices, which had risen to an intra-year high in May on supply disruptions, remain volatile. Other commodity prices, barring those of precious metals, remain soft due to weak demand.