Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

Slow pick-up in India’s GDP growth

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

GDP estimates by the Central Statistics Office for the 2013-14 fiscal year show an improvement over the previous year. But the extent of improvement is too small for comfort. Possibly, in the final revision, that small margin may disappear or even turn negative.

This year, India’s GDP is expected to be up 4.9 percent from 4.5 percent the previous year. This additional growth has come mainly from agriculture, due to a favourable monsoon. Agricultural growth was three times the previous year. Production of non-food grains (like vegetables and fruits), and animal products (like meat and eggs), did not increase adequately in spite of the inflated demand and will continue to be the main source of inflation.

It cannot be said for certain that the monsoon will be normal in 2014 and, even if it is, growth will be lower because of a higher base this year. We cannot rely on agriculture for GDP growth. It has to come from industry and services.

Both performed badly this fiscal year and there are no indications of significant change in the coming year unless major reforms come through. The Congress-led government failed in this respect. Even the opening up of retail to foreign investment did not come through because the reform was hedged with too many conditions, which foreign investors were unwilling to comply with.

How much will U.S. recovery help India?

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

After a prolonged slowdown, the U.S. economy is finally showing signs of recovery though much of it comes from investment in inventories and may not be sustained at the present high rate.

The United States is the largest economy with a share of more than 22 percent in the world GDP. Naturally, even small changes in its behaviour have a perceptible impact worldwide. To India, the United States counts for a lot, although possibly less than it does for China.

How the U.S. Fed’s tapering can affect Indian markets

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

It was never expected to be permanent. Quantitative Easing (QE), designed to pep up the U.S. economy after the financial crisis of 2008-09, has survived for five years. The United States is now on a rebound and unemployment is receding. That has tempted the U.S. Federal Reserve to reconsider tapering its economic stimulus.

This was first announced on May 17 and sent tremors through global markets. Asian markets were the most affected; India was worst-hit, having come to depend on FII investment. The knee-jerk reaction of FIIs was to reduce exposure to emerging market economies in the expectation that liquidity would dry up and interest rates would harden.

Not a smooth ride for the markets

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

There was subdued excitement over the Sensex hitting a record high in a special trading session on Diwali. It had taken the market quite some time to cross its previous peak in 2008. This was also the case for most other markets, although they had recovered a little earlier.

The Indian market was slow to catch up because, apart from the international conditions, there were domestic problems that affected the health of the economy.

Need to rebalance RBI’s interest structure

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

In its mid-quarterly monetary policy review last month, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) made some hasty changes in the interest structure. The repo rate was raised possibly because of the rise in inflation and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate was cut after the rupee recovered against the dollar. The interest structure is still lopsided with short rates exceeding long rates. This anomaly needs to be corrected.

It is believed that the economy is susceptible to a rundown when short rates exceed long rates. A further slowdown, in any case, needs to be prevented and is quite feasible since the compelling conditions that necessitated an interest hike have been contained. There is now enough room for the RBI to restore balance.

Raghuram Rajan and the rupee

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

With Raghuram Rajan taking over as the governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), it’ll make for a change in the central bank’s policy perception.

His predecessor Duvvuri Subbarao used conventional methods and got no results. It is likely Rajan will opt for innovative means and his initial steps are already showing results. It’s evident that the complex problems of today demand out-of-the-box solutions.

Focus should be inflation, not just stemming rupee’s fall

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Indian stocks have been battered over the past few sessions. The market condition is not unexpected, thanks to over-action by policymakers and over-reaction by stock investors.

The apparent anxiety on the part of the government was that even if the fall of the rupee was inevitable, left entirely to the market, speculative activity would push the economy into a crisis. Presumably, the rupee at 60 to the dollar was the benchmark for intervention.

A bumper crop may energize Indian industry

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Industrial growth in India in 2012 was less than a percent and data from April and May this year doesn’t show a lot of promise. The reluctance of industry to grow has been the reason for GDP growth dropping to a disappointing 5 percent, raising doubts about whether the India story has come to an end. That may be an extreme view considering that even the best performers, such as China, are having problems.

But there is a glimmer of hope. Monsoon rains have been above average this year and a bumper crop is expected. Agriculture contributes to around 20 percent of India’s GDP and even an 8 percent increase in agricultural production will at best improve GDP growth by a percent. But agriculture does have an impact on industry and both together can make a perceptible difference.

Sooner the better for RBI to unwind grip on liquidity

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Reuters)

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) wasn’t expected to do anything new at its policy review on Tuesday and it did exactly that. But the markets still reacted adversely. The stock market moved in consort with the rupee with the Sensex falling 245 points.

It is generally true that markets overreact, more so in India, partly because market sentiment is affected far too quickly. What evoked these sentiments was the undue concern expressed by RBI Governor Duvvuri Subbarao about external uncertainties, more so about quantitative easing by the U.S. Federal Reserve and food inflation in India.

Why the rupee is linked to jobs in the U.S.

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

It appears odd that an increase in job offers in the United States should pull the rupee down in India. After all, any improvement in the U.S. economy should benefit the rest of the world. It means an increase in imports by the U.S. and exports by other countries. But there is more to it than that.

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