RBI Likely To Continue Status-Quo On Short-Term Lending Rate, Say Experts | Economy News


Mumbai: Coming close on the heels of the interim budget which maintained the status quo on the policy front, the Reserve Bank is likely to continue with the pause on the short-term lending rate in its upcoming bi-monthly monetary policy this week as retail inflation is still near the higher end of its comfort zone, say experts.

It is almost a year since the Reserve Bank has kept the short-term lending rate or repo rate stable at 6.5 per cent. The benchmark interest rate was last raised in February 2023 to 6.5 per cent from 6.25 percent to contain inflation driven mainly by global developments.

The retail inflation in the current financial year has declined after touching a peak of 7.44 per cent in July 2023, it is still high and was 5.69 per cent in December 2023, though within the Reserve Bank’s comfort zone of 4-6 per cent.

RBI Governor-headed Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) will start its three-day deliberations on February 6. Governor Shaktikanta Das will announce the decision of the six-member panel on February 8. (Also Read: 

Madan Sabnavis, Chief Economist, Bank of Baroda, said the MPC is likely to maintain an unchanged approach in terms of both rate and stance. “This is so as inflation, as per the December data, is still high and there are pressures on the food side. This is notwithstanding the fact that core inflation has come down,” he said.

Going by RBI’s forecasts on inflation it would remain above 5 per cent till June end and come down subsequently. “Also with growth being robust, there is less pressure to think of a rate cut at this time. In fact, the RBI has indicated that the transmission of the 250 bps cut in rates is still not complete and hence there is reason for a pause,” Sabnavis said. (Also Read: India’s Stock Exchanges Cut Paytm Daily Trading Limits To 10% After Rout)

It would be interesting to see if there are any revisions in the forecasts of GDP and inflation for FY24. “Also, some sense on how GDP growth would turn out in FY25 will be useful given that the budget has outlined the contours,” said the chief economist with the public sector bank.

The government has mandated the central bank to ensure the retail inflation based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) remains at 4 per cent with a margin of 2 per cent on either side. On expectations from the RBI on monetary policy, Aditi Nayar, Chief Economist, Head Research and Outreach, ICRA, said the CPI-based inflation is expected to moderate in FY’25, although a well-distributed monsoon will be critical.

“We don’t expect any change in rates or stance in the upcoming review. Our baseline expectation is that the earliest rate cut could be seen in August 2024 with a stance change in the preceding review,” she said.

Goldman Sachs report expects the RBI to keep the policy repo rate unchanged until the third quarter of calendar 2024 (Q3 CY24). “With Q1 CY24 headline inflation still above the RBI’s target, we maintain our view that the RBI will keep the policy repo rate unchanged at 6.5 percent at the February 8 policy meeting, continue with hawkish guidance, and reiterate the 4 per cent inflation target. We further expect the RBI to retain its tight liquidity stance,” it said. (Also Read: BLS-E services IPO Allotment: Here’s How To Check Allotment Status In Few Clicks)

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is scheduled to address the central board of Reserve Bank of India on February 12 and highlight key points of the interim Union Budget presented by her in Parliament on February 1. It is customary for the finance minister to address the Reserve Bank of India board after the Budget. 

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