Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

Interest rates likely to remain high

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(Rajiv Deep Bajaj is the Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Bajaj Capital Ltd. The views expressed in this column are his own and do not represent those of Thomson Reuters)

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) raised its benchmark repo rate by 25 basis points to 8 percent at its policy review meet in January. The reverse repo rate rose to 7 percent while the bank rate and marginal standing facility rate climbed to 9 percent. This is the third hike in repo rate since RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan assumed office in early September.

The primary reason for the hike, as stated by the RBI, has been high retail food inflation and a recovery in core WPI inflation. However, fears over further tapering by the U.S. Federal Reserve could have forced the hike as well.

If one looks at inflation data, one would find that inflation had in fact moderated in December as compared to the previous month. Hence, if the RBI paused in the mid-December policy meet, there was less reason (purely from inflation data) for it to raise rates in January.

Why the RBI raised interest rates

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

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) raised interest rates at its review on Jan 28. The justification usually given for doing so is inflation.

But at its previous review, when inflation had soared, the RBI was passive and left rates unchanged. Now, with wholesale price inflation (WPI) slowing to 6.16 percent, the RBI was quick to raise the repo rate by 25 bps back to its highest level since the 2008 crisis. Why?

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.

Was the repo rate hike necessary?

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The decision of the U.S. Federal Reserve to delay tapering its bond purchases cheered markets, and more so in India because they were convinced of a second bonanza from the RBI. But new Governor Raghuram Rajan gave the markets a jolt by turning hawkish and increasing the repo rate.

The gains of the previous day following the Fed meeting were nearly wiped out and the rupee, which was steadily crawling towards 60 to the dollar, also fell back. The only reason why the RBI increased the repo rate was the revival of inflation, which had dropped to less than 5 percent in April-June.

Why the RBI should cut rates again

(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.

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.

RBI policy: Cut in repo rate imperative

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

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is fixated on inflation and with that rigid mindset it is difficult to expect any liberalisation of monetary policy. But there are other parameters that have changed. Food inflation was down in September if that is any comfort. More than that, the budget deficit will be reduced with a cut in subsidies on diesel. There are also initiatives being taken on reforms. Obviously, the RBI needs to tune its policy to fit the new situation. If the RBI does change its stance, what instrument is it likely to use?

RBI makes the right policy call

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(Rajan Ghotgalkar is Managing Director of Principal Pnb Asset Management Company. The views expressed in this column are his own and do not represent those of either Principal Pnb or Reuters)

The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) monetary policy states that “..it is relevant to assess as to what extent high interest rates are affecting economic growth. Estimates suggest that real effective bank lending interest rates, though positive, remain comparatively lower than the levels seen during the growth phase of 2003-08. This suggests that factors other than interest rates are contributing more significantly to the growth slowdown.”

Should the RBI delay a rate cut?

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

With the return of inflation, there are doubts whether the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will go in for the next cut in repo rate any time soon. In April, inflation was up at 7.2 percent, 2 percent more than in March.

Investors shouldn’t read too much into repo rate cut

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

The last time the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) surprised the markets was when it announced a 75 bps cut in cash reserve ration (CRR) days before its mid-quarter review of monetary policy on March 15. It did so again in its annual monetary policy meeting on April 17, with a 50 bps repo rate cut when the markets were either expecting no rate cut or a 25 bps rate cut at best.

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