RBI sees a slackening of growth, may cut rates further

The Monetary Policy Council of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has projected a significant weakening of the economy’s growth impulses as reflected in a further widening of the output gap in the first quarter of the current financial year.

Since the April 2019 policy, there has been a sharp slowdown in investment activity along with a continuing moderation in private consumption growth, which is a matter of concern, the MPC noted. 
“The headline inflation trajectory remains below the target mandated to the MPC even after taking into account the expected transmission of the past two policy rate cuts. Hence, there is scope for the MPC to accommodate growth concerns by supporting efforts to boost aggregate demand, and in particular, reinvigorate private investment activity, while remaining consistent with its flexible inflation targeting mandate,” MOC said pointing to a further reduction in RBI’s policy rate.
In the April policy, RBI had projected GDP growth for 2019-20 at 7.2 per cent – in the range of 6.8-7.1 per cent for H1 and 7.3-7.4 per cent for H2 – with risks evenly balanced. However, data for Q4:2018-19 indicate that domestic investment activity has weakened and overall demand has been weighed down partly by slowing exports. 
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), the MPC pointed out.
Weak global demand due to escalation in trade wars may further impact India’s exports and investment activity. Further, private consumption, especially in rural areas, has weakened in recent months. 
However, on the positive side, political stability, high capacity utilisation, the uptick in business expectations in Q2, buoyant stock market conditions and higher financial flows to the commercial sector augur well for investment activity. Taking into consideration the above factors and the impact of recent policy rate cuts, RBI now expects GDP growth for 2019-20 to be lower at around 7.0 per cent – in the range of 6.4-6.7 per cent for H1:2019-20 and 7.2-7.5 per cent for H2 – with risks evenly balanced.
The MPC reviewed the surveys conducted by the Reserve Bank to gauge consumer confidence, households’ inflation expectations, corporate sector performance, credit conditions, the outlook for the industrial, services and infrastructure sectors, and the projections of professional forecasters. The MPC also reviewed in detail staff’s macroeconomic projections, and alternative scenarios around various risks to the outlook. 
RBI had at the end of its MPC meeting on 6 June announced a reduction in 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.
The MPC also decided to change the stance of monetary policy from neutral to accommodative.
RBI noted that global economic activity has also been losing pace after a somewhat improved performance in Q1:2019, reflecting further slowdown in trade and manufacturing activity.