RBI cuts interest rate by a further 25 bps to 5.75%
06 June 2019
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today announced a further 0.25 per cent reduction in the repo (repurchase) rate, its policy interest rate, to 5.75 per cent, from the existing 6 per cent, with a view to support growth by increasing liquidity through a lowering of the interest rate structure.
The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Reserve Bank of India at its meeting today decided to reduce the policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) by 25 basis points to 5.75 per cent from 6.0 per cent with immediate effect.
Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the LAF stands adjusted to 5.50 per cent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate to 6.0 per cent.
The MPC also decided to change the stance of monetary policy from neutral to accommodative, which is in consonance with the objective of achieving the medium-term target for consumer price index (CPI)-based inflation of 4 per cent within a band of (+/-) 2 per cent, while supporting growth, RBI stated.
Economic growth in India has slowed, especially in the latter half of the 2018-19 fiscal, as per the latest estimates of gross domestic product (GDP) for Q4:2018-19 and provisional estimates of national income for 2018-19 released by the National Statistics Office (NSO) . GDP growth for 2018-19 has been estimated at 6.8 per cent year-on-year, down by 20 basis points from the second advance estimates released on 28 February, pulled down by a downward revision in private final consumption expenditure (PFCE) and moderation in exports.
Quarterly data show that domestic economic activity decelerated sharply to 5.8 per cent in Q4:2018-19 from 6.6 per cent in Q3 and 8.1 per cent in Q4:2017-18. Gross fixed capital formation (GFCF) growth declined sharply to 3.6 per cent, after remaining in double digits in the previous five quarters. Private consumption growth also moderated. The drag on aggregate demand from net exports increased in Q4 due to a sharper deceleration in exports relative to imports. However, the overall slowdown in growth was cushioned by a large increase in government final consumption expenditure (GFCE).
On the supply side, agriculture and allied activities contracted, albeit marginally, in Q4:2018-19 due to a decline in rabi production. According to the third advance estimates, foodgrains production at 283.4 million tonnes for 2018-19 was lower by 0.6 per cent compared with the previous year mainly due to lower production of rabi rice, pulses and coarse cereals. However, there has been a catch-up in foodgrains production relative to earlier estimates. Foodgrains stocks at 72.6 million tonnes as on 16 May 2019 were 3.4 times the prescribed buffer norms.
Growth in manufacturing activity weakened sharply to 3.1 per cent from 6.4 per cent in the previous quarter. Service sector growth, however, accelerated, supported by financial, real estate and professional services, and public administration, defence and other services. In contrast, construction activity slowed down markedly.
Growth in eight core industries decelerated sharply in April, pulled down largely by coal, crude oil, fertilisers and cement. Credit flows from banks to large industries strengthened, though they remained muted for micro, small and medium industries. Based on early results of the Reserve Bank’s order books, inventory and capacity utilisation survey (OBICUS), capacity utilisation (CU) in the manufacturing sector improved to 77 per cent in Q4 from 75.9 per cent in Q3; seasonally adjusted CU, however, slipped marginally to 75.2 per cent in Q4 from 75.8 per cent in Q3.
The business assessment index (BAI) of the industrial outlook survey (IOS) in Q1:2019-20 remained unchanged at its level in the previous quarter. Imports of capital goods – a key indicator of investment activity – remained anaemic in April. However, the manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) edged up to 52.7 in May with strengthening of output, new orders and employment.
Exports were unable to sustain the growth of 11.8 per cent observed in March 2019; they grew by 0.6 per cent in April 2019 dragged down by engineering goods, gems and jewellery, and leather products. Imports grew at a somewhat accelerated pace in April 2019 relative to the preceding month, driven by imports of petroleum (crude and products), gold and machinery. This led to a widening of the trade deficit, both sequentially and on a y-o-y basis. Provisional data suggest that net services exports in Q4:2018-19 were broadly comparable to their level a year ago which bode well for the current account balance.
On the financing side, net foreign direct investment flows were stronger in Q4:2018-19 than a year ago. After a sharp recovery in March 2019, net foreign portfolio inflows were relatively modest at $2.3 billion in 2019-20 in April-May. While the equity segment received net inflows during this period, the debt segment witnessed net outflows. India’s foreign exchange reserves were at $421.9 billion on 31 May 2019.
High frequency indicators suggest moderation in activity in the service sector. Sales of commercial vehicles, tractors, passenger cars, and three and two wheelers contracted in April. Railway freight traffic growth decelerated. Domestic air passenger traffic growth contracted in March, but turned around modestly in April. Two key indicators of construction activity, viz., cement production and steel consumption, slowed down in April. The PMI services index moderated to 50.2 in May on subdued growth of new businesses.
On the global front, RBI noted that crude oil prices remained volatile, reflecting evolving demand-supply conditions underpinned by the production stance of the OPEC plus, rising shale output, weakening global demand and geopolitical concerns. The strengthening of the US dollar had weakened gold prices; however, prices picked up since the last week of May on escalating trade tensions, reviving its demand as a safe haven asset.
Inflation remained below target in several economies, though it has shown an uptick since March.
Retail inflation, measured by y-o-y change in CPI, remained unchanged in April, at its March level of 2.9 per cent, with higher inflation in food and fuel groups being offset by lower inflation in items excluding food and fuel.
Liquidity in the system turned into an average daily surplus of Rs66,000 crore in early June after remaining in deficit during April and most of May due to restrained government spending. The Reserve Bank injected liquidity of Rs70,000 crore in April and Rs33,400 crore in May on a daily net average basis under the LAF. It conducted two OMO purchase auctions in May amounting to Rs25,000 crore and a US dollar buy/sell swap auction of $5 billion (Rs34,874 crore) for a tenor of 3 years in April to inject durable liquidity into the system.
The weighted average call money rate (WACR) – the operating target of monetary policy – remained broadly aligned with the policy repo rate: it traded above the policy repo rate (on an average) by 6 bps in April, but below the policy repo rate by 6 bps in May. The Reserve Bank has announced that it would conduct an OMO purchase auction of Rs15,000 crore on 13 June 2019.
Transmission of the cumulative reduction of 50 bps in the policy repo rate in February and April 2019 was 21 bps to the weighted average lending rate (WALR) on fresh rupee loans. However, the WALR on outstanding rupee loans increased by 4 bps as the past loans continue to be priced at high rates. Interest rates on longer tenor money market instruments remained broadly aligned with the overnight WACR, reflecting near full transmission of the reduction in policy rate, RBI noted.
In the bi-monthly monetary policy resolution of April 2019, RBI had projected CPI inflation at 2.4 per cent for Q4:2018-19, 2.9-3.0 per cent for H1:2019-20 and 3.5-3.8 per cent for H2:2019-20, with risks broadly balanced. The headline inflation outcome in Q4 at 2.5 per cent was largely in alignment with the April policy projections.