The Reserve Bank of India on June 2, 2015 will announce its Second Bi-Monthly monetary policy. This policy is a tough one for the RBI to decide because of the various effects of the world economy and the domestic conditions. Question is, will there be a rate cut or a status quo. There are various factors that are likely to be considered by Dr. Rajan to decide on the policy action. Lets take a look at the information based on which probably we can foresee the trend of the policy action due tomorrow.
First and the foremost important factor for the same is the retail inflation. CPI ( Consumer Price Index) has seen a decline since Nov 2013 from 11% levels to the current 4-5% levels. WPI( wholesale Price Index) on the other hand showing deflationary trend. The biggest concern for India since the past 2 years was the rising food inflation. Food inflation, lately, has moderated to 5.4% from highly uncomfortable level of 14.45 % during Nov 2013. Inflation is thus showing consistent downfall and has been averaging at 5.5% which is well below the RBI targets of 6% inflation by Jan 2016. The RBI is focusing on the use of CPI alone post apt recommendations of the Urjit Patel Committee. There are chances that WPI might not be picture after a certain amount of time. But it must be acknowledged that FIT (Flexible Inflation Targeting ) has started showing its positive effects.
While on the industrial growth side, India has shown disappointment so far including the disappointing Q4 earning of 2014-15. IIP (Index of Industrial Production) continues to be anaemic which shrank to 2.10% from 5-6 % levels.Firms’ net profit growth has failed to recover despite rate cuts in the previous reviews. Net profit growth has been hovering around 6.5% from the past 4 years in the Indian economy. While the interest costs as a percentage of net sales, which is of major importance for the domestic companies, has seen a steady increase every year. These conditions suggest that although we are growing at 7.3% annually, there is a hint of slowdown in the industrial sector (organized Industrial sector to be accurate).
On the BFSI sector side of it, the commercial credit growth has shown a continuous downfall from 16% to around 10.5% in two years time. This condition seems to be horrifying for the banks and its performance on the NIM(Net Interest Margin) and NII(Net Interest Income) aspects. Deposit growth has been subdued as well.
FII fund flows into Indian markets have also been declining amidst the delays in the structural and tax reforms. Markets have been witnessing high volatility in the recent past, with its IV(Implied Volatility) well over 20%, which is not a good sign. Value of rupee has also shown a downward trend against the dollar thus increasing the value of import burden.
Liquidity conditions in the economy also seem to be comfortable looking at the prevailing call rates. RBI has made sure that enough liquidity is available in the system without compromising on the rupee value. Call rates have been consistently steady at 7 – 7.5% levels, indicating comfortable levels of liquidity, and well within the repo operation window of 6.5%(rev Repo rate) to 8.5%(MSF Facility rate). This liquidity comfort is thus indicating greater probability of a rate cut tomorrow.
US Fed on the other hand has been indicating signs of increasing their interest rates in the Sept FOMC meet. But looking at the US Govt statement on Friday 29th June, where they reduced the forecast of 0.2% annual growth to a shrinking growth of 0.7% due to weak Q1 growth, it looks tough for the Fed to increase rates in the near future. Thus giving RBI the scope of easing its monetary policy.
All the factors of inflation easing, commercial credit growth declining, pressure on NII, negative fund flows from FIIs, subdued corporate earnings, steady liquidity conditions and the increasing cost of interest are signalling towards a rate cut.
All the above factors are a guidance about the direction of the repo rate. There is one factor which is being considered by all central bankers for decisions on the operational rate cutting. This factor will ultimately determine the size of the rate cuts going forward depending on the economic conditions. The factor is popularly known as the Equilibrium Real Interest. This is the move of central bankers towards discretion as to what is should be the ideal rate for a certain economy. ERI is the rate which is considered acceptable by the central bankers over and above the inflation levels which is right for the economy to grow. RBI considers ERI should be 1.5% to 2%. Current inflation averaging at 5.5% and considering an average ERI of 1.75%, it might be apt that the ideal rate would be 7.25% in the current configuration.
Considering all the factors of magnitude and direction of the repo rate, RBI in its Second Bi Monthly Policy might cut repo rate by 25 bps to 7.25% or even 50 bps if Dr. Rajan decides to surprise the markets yet another time. It is unlikely that RBI will maintain status quo looking at the factors in play. CRR and SLR on the other hand might not be disturbed at the moment since the liquidity condition seems comfortable. The effects of the monsoons and the EL Nino is still an unanswered issue which can be only witnessed in the near future. Presently, some rate adjustments are certainly due in India as well as US, but its likely that the RBI will step on the gas first to spur growth as well as contain inflation.
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