RBI hikes rates by 50 bps, but OK with inflation target

  • India Infoline News Service
  • 05 Aug , 2022
  • 12:53 PM
The RBI governor concluded his statement with the famous quote from the Father of the Nation, “The road to salvation lies through incessant toil”. One thing the RBI governor has hinted is that the battle against inflation is going to long, hard and lonely for the Indian economy.

First, the background of the policy announcement. In its special monetary policy in May 2022, the RBI hiked the repo rates by 40 bps. The rates were again hiked by 50 bps in the regular June monetary policy. In its latest August monetary policy, the RBI has hiked rates by another 50 bps. That means a total rate hike of 140 basis points in the last 3 months, taking the repo rates 25 bps above the pre-COVID rate. But there is more to it.

With the repo rates at 5.40%, rates have climbed by 140 bps since May 2022. However, it must be remembered that the standing deposit facility (SDF) had already increased the LAF (liquidity adjustment facility) floor by 40 bps. Effectively, the RBI has already hiked rates by 180 bps since May. This was further amplified by a 50 bps CRR hike in May 2022. In short, there is a lot of underlying hawkishness in the RBI thinking.

RBI hikes repo rates by another 50 bps in August 2022

Ahead of the RBI policy of August 2022, the street was predicting rate hikes in the range of 25-35 bps. However, the RBI has chosen to err on the side of caution and hiked the rates by 50 bps to avoid any risk of monetary divergence with an incorrigibly hawkish US Fed. Here are the key takeaways from the RBI policy statement.
  • The policy repo rate has been raised by 50 basis points from 4.90% to 5.40%, now a good 25 bps ahead of the pre-COVID repo rate levels of 5.15%.
  • Consequently, the standing deposit facility (SDF), highlighted in the April policy, stands increased to 5.15%; pegged 25 basis points below the repo rate.
  • The bank rate and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate, pegged 25 bps above the repo rates, go up to 5.65% post the August 2022 repo rate hike.
  • Like in the June policy, the RBI refrained from tinkering with the CRR rate in the light of the objections coming from the banks. The CRR stays at 4.5%.
  • Inflation expectations for FY23 were kept static at 6.7%. The inflation expectation had already been hiked by 220 basis points since the first estimate for FY23.
  • GDP forecast for FY23 has been maintained at 7.2%, and the latest IMF report projecting robust growth for India appears to have added to the RBI’s confidence.
  • The MPC voted to remain focused on withdrawal of accommodation. Five members voted in favour while Jayanth Varma had objections to such a commitment.
  • All the 6 members voted unanimously to hike the repo rates by 50 basis points to 5.40%. The hawkishness almost appears to be a consensus for the MPC members.
In terms of post policy market reaction, the markets have only consolidated on their strengths. There has been some pressure on auto stocks due to the higher cost of funds entailed in the repo rate hike. However, cement and infrastructure stocks look to be celebrating the robust growth projections.

MPC holds inflation projection at 6.7% for FY23

The MPC holding its inflation forecast for FY23 at 6.7% is hardly surprising with the CPI retail inflation coming down to 7%. Perhaps, once the CPI inflation comes close to 6% and WPI inflation trends below 15%, the MPC may consider lowering its inflation forecast for FY23. The RBI would be juggling two factors. On the one hand Brent Crude falling to $94/bbl is a major positive. However, a steeply higher current account deficit is weakening the rupee and that could result in a lot of imported inflation. So it will be a tightrope walk.

What is working for the RBI is that food, metal and oil inflation have tapered globally. There is also a concern over shortfall in paddy sowing, although overall Kharif output is expected to be better than normal this year. Consequently, the RBI has held full year FY23 inflation at 6.7%. This has been broken up as under: Q2FY23 at 7.1%, Q3FY23 at 6.4%, Q4FY23 at 5.8% and Q1FY24 at 5.0%.

Chart Source: RBI Policy Statement

One of the key targets for the RBI is to manage inflation expectations and in that it has been successful as inflation expectations have trended lower. That is likely to make the RBI’s hawkish policy stance more effective in terms of outcomes.

FY23 GDP growth held at a robust 7.2%

Despite the inflation tapering, the RBI has not made any upward revisions to its real GDP growth projections for FY23 at 7.2%. This is likely to happen, once the CPI inflation comes decisively below 6% and WPI also follows the trend. On the growth front, the RBI is betting heavily on brightening rural consumption on the back of strong agricultural growth. Most of the contact intensive sectors like trade, hotels and tourism, have shown a sharp turnaround, filling up the last available gap in the post-COVID recovery story.

However, the RBI has cautioned that there could be elevated risks to the GDP growth on account of rising geopolitical tensions. There is also the risk of global hawkishness reaching a crescendo as evident from recent actions of the US Fed, Bank of England and the ECB. The 7.2% GDP growth projection for FY23 has been broken up as under: Q1FY23 at 16.2%, Q2FY23 at 6.2%, Q3FY23 at 4.1% and Q4FY23 at 4.0%. Due to base effect, there is going to be a lot of front-loading of growth in the first two quarters.

Regulatory and development measures announced by the RBI

In last few years, RBI has used the policy statement to provide additional signals on the regulatory front. Here are some key announcements.
  • RBI will introduce a code of conduct for outsourcing financial services. The draft guidelines for public comments is expected to be put out shortly.
  • Credit Information Companies (CIC) like CIBIL will be brought under the RBI Ombudsman scheme. This will provide an alternate route for grievance redressal for customers of regulated entities, for complaints pertaining to CICs.
  • Standalone Primary Dealers (SPDs) to be permitted to offer all forex related activities, just like Category-1 Authorised dealers, subject to prudential guidelines.
  • RBI will set the tone to shift from the existing MIBOR to a more broad-based benchmark, as is the extant international practice.
  • The NPCI’s Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS) to be made available non-residents (NRIs) to efficiently meet their payment needs.
To sum it up, the RBI has retained its hawkish undertone. We should get greater clarity when the minutes are announced on 19th August. But, it will be global event flows that will determine the colour of the next monetary policy announcement on 30th September.

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August MPC minutes indicate elevated inflation worries

  • India Infoline News Service
  • 22 Aug , 2022
  • 5:22 AM
In the recent meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) concluded on 05th August, the RBI raised repo rates by another 50 basis points from 4.90% to 5.40%. With the August rate hike, RBI has hiked rates by 140 bps between May and August from 4.00% to 5.40% (now 25 bps above the pre-COVID rate). In addition, RBI also hiked the lower base of SDF (special deposit facility) by 40 bps while the 50 bps CRR hike in May 2022 soaked up liquidity of Rs87,000 crore. RBI has been as aggressive and hawkish as the US Federal, if not more.

In a sense, the RBI has already brought the rates to near-neutral levels and further rate hikes from here could impact GDP growth. However, even as the RBI has been calibrating its next move, the focus on controlling inflation is unmistakeable. One outcome is visible in recent inflation numbers. CPI inflation has come down by 108 bps since May while WPI inflation is down 270 bps since June 2022. All 6 members of the MPC were unanimous about hiking repo rates to 5.40%. However, Jayant Varma objected to usage of 2 contradictory terms “withdrawal of accommodation and supporting growth” in its policy stance. Here is a gist of the minutes of the MPC meeting published on 19th August 2022.

1.      Shashank Bhide highlights the inflation risk perspective

Bhide has pointed to the elevated levels of inflation persuading the MPC to continue with its rate hikes. According to Bhide, while the inflation levels are tapering it is still well above the outer tolerance limit of the RBI of 6%. Inflation has been above the RBI median expected inflation of 4% for more than 3 years now. Bhide expressed concerns that the monsoon shortfall, lower Kharif acreage and the recent changes in the GST could add to the inflation risks to the economy. Elevated inflation remained a major concern.

Bhide pointed out that on the growth front, most of the high frequency indicators have hinted at the growth momentum continuing. Effectively, the higher repo rates have not had any significant impact on the GDP growth levers. In fact, recent data on GST collections, E-Way bills and even non-food credit have indicated momentum in growth continuing. This gives the RBI leeway to focus more on inflation. Bhide voted for a 50 bps rate hike with focus on withdrawal of accommodation.

2.      Ashima Goyal points to resilience of India growth story

While Bhide had justified the rate hike more from an inflation perspective, Goyal has justified the rate hike more from growth perspective. According to Goyal, India had sustained its growth momentum in the last 3 years even in the face of global headwinds like the Chinese lockdown, US Fed hawkishness, Europe slowdown, Russia war etc. She pointed out that despite the recent rate hikes, the real rates were negative on a median basis. This gives room for more hawkishness by the RBI.

According to Goyal, the revised repo rate at 5.40% would take the 10 year bond yields closer to 7.5% and that would just about take the real rates into positive territory. This will ensure that India does not suffer any risk-off capital outflows at a time when the US Fed is also tightening aggressively. Goyal expects GDP growth to pick up further in line with credit growth as India emerges from a prolonged period of deleveraging.

3.      Jayant Varma wants inflation control above all else

Varma has been quite categorical about focusing on inflation control and his ideal choice of rate hike was between 50 bps, 60 bps and 75 bps. Since growth was resilient, Varma feels the entire focus should be on front loading rate hikes to cut down inflation rapidly and brutally. According to Varma, front loading of rate hikes would go a long way in reinforcing the credibility of the RBI effort and also rapidly bring down expected inflation.

However, Varma is less than convinced about how to withdraw accommodation and keep growth intact. He preferred a focus on withdrawing accommodation in absolute terms with no strings attached and that was the only area in which he had raised an objection. According to Varma, as of now the terminal repo rate level is not clear and could even be the pre-2019 repo rate of 6.50%. Varma is affirmative that the terminal rate is above 5.40%.

4.      Rajiv Ranjan talks on stagflation versus recession

According to Rajiv Ranjan, the concerns over the world economy had moved from stagflation to recession and that had triggered a major debate over a soft landing. According to Ranjan, inflation could be a two-way street for the RBI. On the one hand, the global tapering of commodity prices could bring down inflation meaningfully. However, food inflation in India remains a risk due to weak Kharif acreage amidst erratic monsoons.

Ranjan also pointed out that, thanks to the external benchmark lending rate (EBLR), the transmission of rate hikes happens rather quickly. Hence any impact on consumption and inflation should be much faster than it has been in the past.

5.      Michael Patra warns of the risk of a rising dollar

Patra has provided an interesting perspective on inflation. According to Patra, the dollar has recently strengthened by 8.3% and that is resulting in a lot of imported inflation for India. India has been heavily importing crude, coal, coke and gold and in all these cases, the dollar strength is haunting and adding to inflation. According to Patra, apart from monsoons, the biggest risk to inflation in India comes from depreciation of the Indian rupee.

Patra has rightly pointed that the most important thing for the RBI to manage is the inflation expectations of consumers. Affirmative front loading of rate hikes by the RBI results in lowered inflation expectations. Lower the inflation expectations, higher will be the spending and growth levers will be in place. Patra also voted for a 50 bps rate hike and withdrawal of accommodation as outlined in the MPC.

6.      RBI Governor wants to set the cornerstone for long-term growth

The RBI governor, Shaktikanta Das, has admitted that global growth had been sharply downsized by the IMF since the last meeting of the MPC. Das underlined that 60% of items in the CPI inflation basket had inflation of more than 6% showing broad based price increase. Das has also called for the need to anchor inflation expectations by being aggressive on rate hikes. RBI would not relent on its hawkish stance, till medium term inflation gravitated towards the preferred target of 4% mark.

Here are 2 takeaways from the MPC minutes. The entire focus of rate hikes is on managing the inflation expectations. After all, that is the lead indicator for inflation and growth. Secondly, the biggest risk to inflation is from the strong dollar, and that is a factor out of control. As Jayant Varma would have loved to put it, “It is time to either run with the growth hares or hunt with the inflation hounds”. For now, the latter is the preferred option.

RBI Monetary Policy: Repo rate hiked 50 basis points, GDP growth estimate unchanged at 7.2%

  • India Infoline News Service
  • 05 Aug , 2022
  • 10:36 AM
The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) announced a 50 basis points hike in repo rate, following its three-day meeting. Repo is the rate at which RBI lends short-term funds to banks. As initial response, the 10-year government bond yield jumped 10 basis points to 7.25% after RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das announced MPC’s decision to withdraw monetary accommodation in the fight against inflation. The decision to hike rate was unanimous with all six members of the MPC voting in favor. Please note, RBI has set a medium-term target for CPI inflation of 4% within a band of +/- 2%.

The Standing Deposit Facility (SDF) stands adjusted to 5.15% post this hike. The marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate stand at 5.65%.

RBI retained its estimates for FY23 GDP growth and CPI inflation at 7.2% and 6.7%, respectively.

Against the prevailing adverse global environment, the MPC noted that domestic economic activity is resilient and progressing broadly along the lines of the June resolution of the MPC.

GDP growth estimates by RBI
Q1FY23 16.2%
Q2FY23 6.2%
Q3FY23 4.1%
Q4FY23 4.0%
“Household inflation expectations have eased, but remain elevated”, said RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das. These estimates factor in price of Indian crude oil basket at $105/barrel.

CPI estimates by RBI
Q2FY23 7.1%
Q3FY23 6.4%
Q4FY23 5.8%

Here are the key highlights of the Governor's statement:
The pandemic and the war have ignited tendencies towards greater fragmentation, reshoring of supply chains and retrenchment of capital flows, which will pose long-term challenges for both globalization and the global economy.

For emerging market economies (EMEs), these risks are magnified as they have to contend with both domestic growth-inflation trade-offs and spillovers from the most synchronized tightening of monetary policy worldwide.
On the Indian economy:
  • With strong and resilient fundamentals, India is expected to be amongst the fastest growing economies during 2022-23 according to the IMF, with signs of inflation moderating over the course of the year
  • Export of goods and services together with remittances are expected to keep the current account deficit within sustainable limits
  • The decline in external debt to GDP ratio, net international investment position to GDP ratio and debt service ratio during 2021-22 impart resilience against external shocks
  • The financial sector is well capitalized and sound. India’s foreign exchange reserves, supplemented by net forward assets, provide insurance against global spillovers
Overall system liquidity is in surplus, average daily absorption under the LAF stood at Rs 3.8 lakh crore during June and July 2022. Money supply (M3) and bank credit from commercial banks grew 7.9% and 14.0%, respectively, on a year-on-year basis.
India had foreign exchange reserves of US$ 573.9 billion as on July 29, 2022
It is proposed to enable Bharat Bill Payment System to accept cross-border inward bill payments. Such a move will facilitate bill payments for utilities, education, etc. by NRIs on behalf of their families based in India.
RBI-integrated ombudsman scheme will now include credit information companies, i.e., CICs. The CICs will have their own internal ombudsman framework.
Standalone Primary Dealers (SPDs) authorized under section 10(1) of FEMA,1999 will be permitted to undertake Foreign Currency Settled Overnight Indexed Swap (FCS-OIS) transactions directly with non-residents and other market-makers
It is proposed to enable SPDs to offer all foreign exchange market-making facilities as currently permitted to Category-I Authorised Dealers, subject to guidelines.
Read the full statement of the Governor


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  • 22 August, 2022 |
  • 10:55 AM

Even as the RBI has been calibrating its next move, the focus on controlling inflation is unmistakeable.

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