Pressure is mounting on RBI to cut interest rate in its third monetary policy review of this fiscal on Tuesday while experts are divided over the issue, saying high retail inflation may hold it back from doing so.
Most bankers and experts believe that the possibility of an interest rate cut by the Reserve Bank on August 4 is very low as retail inflation remains high.
However, India Inc is pitching for a rate cut because of low wholesale inflation and slowdown in industrial growth. Even the government wants the benchmark rate to be cut to prop up growth.
“I am not expecting any rate cut,” SBI Chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya said.
“WPI is (negative), but CPI has gone up a little though it is mainly on account of food prices. RBI has been benchmarking it to CPI numbers, I think it is unlikely,” she added.
While retail inflation in June rose to an eight-month high of 5.4 per cent, the overall wholesale price index (WPI) based inflation was (-)2.4 per cent in the same month.
RBI mostly tracks the consumer price inflation for its monetary policy decision.
“It would be a status quo. I don’t think there has been much change in the macroeconomic conditions from the last policy. RBI is closely monitoring monsoon. Nothing indicates that it is a good or a bad monsoon,” Bank of Baroda Managing Director and CEO Ranjan Dhawan said.
Some bankers are of the view that there is scope for further rate cut by RBI, but whether it accommodates that in this policy is in the realm of speculation.
HDFC Bank Deputy Managing Director Paresh Sukthankar said: “… it is difficult to hazard a guess on what move the RBI would be taking on Tuesday, but interest rates are on a downward trend. I expect RBI to cut rates by 25-50 basis points this fiscal.”
HSBC India Country Head Naina Lal Kidwai said: “We are expecting 0.25 per cent reduction and 0.5 per cent by the end of the year. If reduction has to be done, why not do it early? This will benefit industry and boost growth.”
Monsoon has been good so far and the impact on farm production is awaited, she said, adding, “our challenge is not about just base rate that RBI will do, but the banking system should make interest rate much more attractive for investment”.
Research firm Moody’s Analytics also said RBI is likely to cut the benchmark rate by 0.25 per cent in the bi-monthly monetary policy review tomorrow as inflation is likely to remain subdued on the back of average rainfall and lower commodity prices.
In its last review on June 2, RBI cut repo rate 0.25 per cent for the third time this year.
During the calender year, RBI has reduced the rate thrice by 0.75 per cent. It was cut by 0.25 per cent each in January, March and June.
RBI cut the policy rate (the short-term lending rate) to 7.25 per cent in June from the earlier 7.5 per cent, but left cash reserve ratio (CRR) and statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) unchanged at 4 per cent and 21.5 per cent, respectively.
DBS in a research report said: “RBI meets next on August 4 and we expect the benchmark repo rate to be held unchanged at 7.25 per cent after cumulative 75 bps cuts since January 2015.”
The report said that if the official commentary signals a start to the US rate hiking cycle later this year, “it will affirm our expectations that RBI will maintain a prolonged pause on the rates front”.
Industry chamber Assocham has also pitched for reduction in repo rate by 25 basis points.
Factors like a modest rise in minimum support price (MSP) for various crops together with benign global commodity prices and others are likely to result in moderating consumer price index (CPI) at 5.2-5.4 per cent in the second half, thereby undershooting the apex bank’s earlier projection of six per cent in January 2016, it said.