With inflation easing to a three year low and growth taking a hit, the Reserve Bank (RBI) is likely to reduce policy rates by 0.25 per cent on March 19 when it will carry out the mid-quarter review, says a report by Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.
Bank of America-Merrill Lynch (BofA-ML) today said with possibility of GDP numbers coming down to below 5 per cent for the December quarter, the Central bank may shift its stance to supporting growth from containing inflation.
"We grow more confident of our call of RBI switching to support growth from exclusively fighting inflation. January inflation, at 6.62 per cent, came in well below expectations.
Still, with the December quarter GDP growth set to dip below 5 per cent, we expect the RBI to advance policy rate cuts (by 25 bps each) on March 19 and May 3," said the report.
Earlier this week, the Central Statistical Office surprised with its advance estimate, projecting a 5 per cent GDP growth this fiscal, which could be the lowest growth rate in a decade after FY'02 when the economy grew by 4.3 per cent.
The signals from factory output data also appear poor as IIP contracted by 0.6 per cent in December, belying expectations that the economy had bottomed out. The wholesale price index-based inflation eased to 6.62 per cent in January, from 7.18 per cent a month ago.
Inflation in manufactured items category witnessed a decline and stood at 4.81 per cent in January, down from 5.04 per cent in the previous month.
However, the BofA-ML report warned inflation may touch 7.5 per cent during the second half of next financial year.
On the RBI's open market operations (OMOs) to tide over liquidity deficit, which this week has touched a whopping Rs 1.4 lakh crore, the report said the central bank is likely to pump in Rs 20,000 crore more through OMOs into the system in the remaining period of the fiscal.
"We continue to expect OMOs/CRR cuts and base effects to push up deposit growth to 15 per cent by March from 13 per cent now. High lending rates should continue to pull down lending rates to 14-15 per cent from 16 per cent now."
An OMO is an activity by a central bank to buy or sell government bonds on the open market.
In this backdrop, the lending rates are likely to come down by an additional 0.75 per cent next financial year beginning