On expected lines, the RBI left key rates unchanged. On the basis of an assessment of the current and evolving macroeconomic situation, the RBI said it has been decided to:
- Keep the policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) unchanged at 8.0 per cent;
- Keep the cash reserve ratio (CRR) of scheduled banks unchanged at 4.0 per cent of net demand and time liabilities (NDTL);
- Continue to provide liquidity under overnight repos at 0.25 per cent of bank-wise NDTL at the LAF repo rate and liquidity under 7-day and 14-day term repos of up to 0.75 per cent of NDTL of the banking system through auctions; and
- Continue with daily one-day term repos and reverse repos to smooth liquidity.
Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the LAF will remain unchanged at 7.0 per cent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate at 9.0 per cent.
Assessment of the Global Economy
Since the fourth bi-monthly monetary policy statement of September 2014, the global economy has slowed, though the recent sharp fall in crude prices will have a net positive impact on global growth. The recovery in the United States is broadening on the back of stronger domestic consumption, rising investment and industrial activity. In the Euro area, headwinds from recessionary forces continue to weaken industrial production and investment sentiment. In Japan, growth may be picking up again on the back of stronger exports, helped in part by further quantitative and qualitative easing that has led to a depreciation of the yen. In China, disappointing activity and still-low inflation have prompted rate cuts by the People's Bank of China. In other major emerging market economies (EMEs), downside risks to growth from elevated inflation, low commodity prices, deteriorating labour market conditions and stalling domestic demand have become accentuated.
Notwithstanding the cessation of asset purchases by the US Fed, financial markets have remained generally buoyant on abundant liquidity stemming from accommodative monetary policies in the advanced economies (AEs). The search for yield has driven global equity markets to new highs, with investors shunning gold and commodities. Capital flows to EMEs recovered from market turbulence in the first half of October, although some discrimination on the basis of fundamentals is becoming discernible.
Assessment of the Indian Economy
Domestic activity weakened in Q2 of 2014-15, and activity is likely to be muted in Q3 also because of a moderate kharif harvest. The deficiency in the north-east monsoon rainfall has constrained the pace of rabi sowing, except in the southern States. Despite reasonable levels of water storage in major reservoirs, the rabi crop is unlikely to compensate for the decline in kharif production earlier in the year and consequently, agricultural growth in 2014-15 is likely to be muted. This, along with a slowdown in rural wage growth, is weighing on rural consumption demand.
Despite the uptick in September, the growth of industrial production slumped to 1.1 per cent in Q2 with negative momentum in September, unable to sustain the improvement recorded in the preceding quarter. The persisting contraction in the production of both capital goods and consumer goods in Q2 reflected weak aggregate domestic demand. However, more recent readings of core sector activity, automobile sales and purchasing managers' indices suggest improvement in likely activity. Exports have buffered the slowdown in industrial activity in Q2 but, going forward, require support from partner country growth.
In the services sector, the October's purchasing managers' survey indicates deceleration in new business. In contrast, tourist arrivals and domestic and international cargo movements have shown improvement. Thus, various constituents of the services sector are emitting mixed signals.
A rise in investment is critical for a sustained pick-up in overall economic activity. While low capacity utilisation in some sectors is a dampener, the recent strong improvement in business confidence and in investment intentions should help. In this context, the still slow pace of reviving stalled projects, despite government efforts, warrants policy priority, even as ongoing efforts to ease stress in the financial system unlock resources for financing the envisaged investment push.
The fiscal outlook should brighten because of the fall in crude prices, but weak tax revenue growth and the slow pace of disinvestment suggest some uncertainty about the likely achievement of fiscal targets, and the quality of eventual fiscal adjustment. The government, however, appears determined to stay on course.
Retail inflation, as measured by the consumer price index (CPI), has decelerated sharply since the fourth bi-monthly statement of September. This reflects, to some extent, transitory factors such as favourable base effects and the usual softening of fruits and vegetable prices that occurs at this time of the year. On the other hand, protein-rich items such as milk and pulses continue to experience upside pressures, reflecting structural mismatches in supply and demand. The absence of adequate administered price revisions in inputs like electricity has contributed to the easing of inflation in the fuel group.
In the non-food non-fuel category, inflation eased broadly in September. Further softening of international crude prices in October eased price pressures in transport and communication. However, upside pressures persist in respect of prices of clothing and bedding, housing and other miscellaneous services, resulting in non-food non-fuel inflation for October remaining flat at its level in the previous month, and above headline inflation. Survey-based inflationary expectations have been coming down with the fall in prices of commonly-bought items such as vegetables, but are still in the low double digits. Administered price corrections, as and when they are effected, weaker-than-anticipated agricultural production, and a possible rise in energy prices on the back of geo-political risks could alter the currently benign inflation outlook significantly.