RBI steps in to tame rates, boost liquidity

Written by fe Bureau | Mumbai | Updated: Oct 8 2013, 08:52am hrs
In twin moves to bring down the cost of money and ease liquidity, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Monday cut the Marginal Standing Facility (MSF) rate by 50 basis points to 9% and announced seven-day and 14-day repo windows. With this, the gap between the MSF and the repo rate has narrowed to 150 basis points; RBI governor Raghuram Rajan had indicated at the central banks mid-quarter monetary policy announcement on September 20, after he slashed the MSF by 75 basis points, that the difference would gradually be reduced to 100 bps . The MSF will do most of the walking, Rajan had said.

Tight liquidity and sluggish deposit growth have compelled banks to raise their lending and deposit rates. While wholesale money may become somewhat cheaper now, banks are unlikely to drop loan rates in the near future. Indeed, with inflation coming in at 6.1% in August and the CPI nudging double digits, its unlikely the RBI will cut the repo rate currently at 7.5% when it meets next on October 29.

Bankers appreciated the measures, saying they would help lower government bond yields, money market rates and help banks reduce their cost of funds. On the 3-month, 6-month rates, one can expect a fall of 50 bps and on the one-year rates, it could be 25-35 bps, Ashish Parthasarthy, head of treasury at HDFC Bank said.

Last week, the RBI infused Rs 10,000 crore through OMO (open market operations), which helped bring down borrowings from the MSF window to Rs 38,718 crore, close to the borrowings from the repo window. Hitendra Dave, head of global markets at HSBC, said the move clearly signalled that the RBI wants the repo rate to be the effective policy rate. This will be achieved in calibrated steps and it is safe to assume that by the next policy, the market rate could be around the repo rate, Dave observed.

Bankers believe the lower MSF rate will certainly help bring interest rates down. The CD and bulk deposit rates will come down lowering the cost of funds, SK Jain, CMD of Syndicate Bank told FE.

The introduction of the 7-day and the 14-day repos, bankers say, will help create a more reliable term curve. Money market products can now be better benchmarked and even wholesale deposits of banks will now have a benchmark for the pricing, said NS Venkatesh, head of treasury at IDBI Bank. In September, the RBI started unwinding the extraordinary liquidity measures that it had taken in July to prop up the rupee. The MSF rate the costliest liquidity window was slashed by 75 bps on September 20. With their borrowings from the Liquidity Adjustment Facility (LAF) capped at 0.5% of deposits, banks had been borrowing heavily from the MSF, forcing them hike their deposit and lending rates.

Along with the MSF rate reduction, the RBI announced 7-day and 14-day repo tenders through which it will provide funds to banks. The central bank said these repo tenders would be on variable rate; that is, banks can bid for funds at different rates depending on their requirement. Banks will be allowed to borrow up to 0.25% of their deposit base from these facilities. Currently, the RBI provides funds to banks against government securities at a fixed rate of 7.50% through its daily repo tender under LAF. However, access to this window is restricted to 0.5% of the deposit base of each individual bank.

Banks had borrowed Rs 38,718 crore from the MSF on Friday, far lower than the average of Rs 80,000 crore seen in September after the RBI infused Rs 10,000 crore in liquidity through open market operations last week. Meanwhile, bankers said this move would bring down their cost of funds further and also establish a long-awaited term money yield curve.