The 10-year benchmark bond yield rose to 8.16%, its highest level since November 28, 2014, or nearly four years. The bond yield has seen an increase of almost 40 basis points from the level of 7.77% seen in the middle of June. Bond markets are nervous as global crude oil prices remain elevated at over $77 per barrel, which together with the weakening currency — which has now lost 11.8% since January — would add to inflation concerns. On Monday, the rupee closed at 72.44 against the dollar after touching intra-day lows of 72.67. Economists believe an interest rate hike is a textbook defence against a falling currency.
Anticipating higher inflation, the Reserve Bank India (RBI) has raised its policy repo rate in two successive meetings by 25 basis points each, at its last two policy reviews in June and August. The repo rate is now at 6.5%. A clutch of lenders including State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Bank of Baroda have all raised their marginal cost of funds-based lending rate (MCLR) over the past 10 days. Before that, several lenders had raised their deposit rates.
Experts believe there is a possibility of another rate hike in six to nine months, partly on inflation concerns but also to help arrest the slide in the currency. According to experts, the forthcoming rate hikes would be taken less from a point of view of rising inflation and more due to the currency depreciation. The headline consumer inflation rose 4.17% in July from a year earlier and is expected to pick up momentum on higher crude prices and the weakening rupee.