RBI to cut growth forecast, keep rates steady

Published: September 27, 2017 11:33:34 | Updated: October 24, 2017 12:06:08


The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will hold policy steady at its Oct. 4 meeting, and well past next year, amid weak economic growth and signs inflation may soon overshoot its target, a Reuters poll found.

Asia’s third-largest economy started losing momentum after the government scrapped 86 per cent of currency in circulation late last year, hurting demand in India’s cash-reliant economy, and the slowdown was compounded by the implementation of a new tax system, according to Reuters.

In August, despite a neutral policy bias, India’s central bank cut the key policy rate after lowering its economic growth forecast in June to 7.3 per cent from 7.4 per cent for the current fiscal year.

The latest poll of 60 economists showed although the RBI will hold its key repo rate at a seven-year low of 6.0 per cent next week, it will downgrade its growth forecast again following disruptions caused by the new tax.

Introduced July 1, the national tax system caused confusion over product pricing and pushed activity in India’s private sector into contraction.

Economic growth slowed to a three-year low last quarter, prompting some economists to lower their outlook. “RBI has already been highlighting downside risks to growth, and that bias should now crystallise in the updated forecasts,” said Abhishek Upadhyay, economist at ICICI Securities PD.

However, lacklustre growth and inflation hovering below the RBI’s 4.0 per cent medium-term target - annual retail inflation was 3.36 per cent in August - would not be enough to drive the RBI into action, economists said.

Nearly two-thirds of forecasters who answered an extra question said there was a chance consumer inflation would overshoot the RBI’s medium-term target this fiscal year and medians suggest the Bank would hold policy until at least April 2019, the end of the forecast horizon.

The reverse repo rate is expected to be left at 5.75 per cent across the same period.

However, not all economists are convinced the RBI will keep policy rates unchanged.

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