Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

Why the RBI should cut rates again

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

In May, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had hesitatingly cut the repo rate by 0.25 percent, which made no impression on the stock market or commercial banks. That was because both expected the cut to be more substantial. But the RBI had not obliged.

Perhaps the monsoon, which arrived on the dot and is progressing satisfactorily, may make some difference to the RBI’s expectations of food inflation – which had been its principal reason for hesitancy. While it’s too early to predict monsoon behaviour for the rest of the season and the likely improvement in agricultural production, it does appear the improvement should be significant and inflation dampened perceptibly. Reduction in inflation, however, is not the only reason why the interest rate should have been cut.

The other reason is to stimulate investment and enhance growth that is necessary to generate employment. Higher interest payments eat into earnings and reduce net profitability. In the quarter ending March 2013, interest payments were 29 percent of profits before tax. A 2 percent reduction in interest rate would increase net profits by 6 percent.

Interest rate matters. Most countries within sight of recession have taken every possible measure to reduce the interest rate. In countries such as Japan, even the nominal interest rate has been close to zero. In the United States, the real interest rate (nominal interest rate minus the rate of inflation) has been negative. We are among the few with an over 7 percent rate.

Decoding Subbarao’s signals

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

When Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Duvvuri Subbarao announced last week that the central bank was cutting its policy interest rate for the third time this year, he also made a statement that may well have been directed as much to watchers of the Indian economy as to its managers. His message to the government, originally coded in technocratic diplomacy: It’s time for you to do your share in reviving growth.

Financial markets had widely anticipated the RBI would cut its repo rate by 25 basis points (bps). However, they also expected its policy guidance to adopt a less hawkish tone than in the two prior cuts. After all, inflation had continued to ease and the economy still needs all the support it can get to come back on the growth path. Instead, Subbarao was categorical in saying that the “growth-inflation dynamic yields little space for further monetary easing.”

Need to bring repo rate in line with inflation

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

For nearly three years now, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) monetary policy has had a single target. The presumption is that only when inflation is below the tolerance limit can the interest rate be made normal.

The last time the repo rate was reduced was on March 19 when it was cut by 0.25 percent, a change understandably ignored by commercial banks and other financial institutions. With the repo rate at 7.5 percent and inflation down to 5.9 percent, the market expects the RBI to cut the repo rate further at its next policy review on May 3.

The wait for the rate cut

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

At its mid-quarter review on Jan. 18, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) did not cut the repo rate and also left the CRR unchanged. But it raised hopes that policy easing can follow in the fourth quarter.

The RBI and its inflation dilemma

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(Arvind Chari is a senior fund manager of Quantum Asset Management Company Private Limited. The views expressed in this column are his own and do not represent those of either Quantum AMC or Reuters.)

The wholesale price index number for September (7.81 percent) poses a dilemma for the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). With the finance ministry leaving no opportunity to make its case for lower interest rates and exhorting the RBI to take ‘calibrated risks’, the recent inflation data gives no comfort to the RBI to go ahead and confidently cut the repo rate in its October policy review.

RBI rate cut — too little, too late?

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

The RBI Governor cut the repo rate on April 17 quite reluctantly, even hinting there wouldn’t be another cut soon. Perhaps, he was under pressure from elsewhere, compelling him to look beyond inflation which had been his sole criterion in raising the repo rate.

Will Subbarao oblige Mukherjee?

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

“The government will be forced to take difficult decisions,” Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said at a FICCI event while expressing hope of a “reversal of the policy rate which should help in improving business sentiments”.

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