Wait-And-See Stance at the Reserve Bank of India
December 7, 2016
The latest monetary policy review in India left the repo rate at 6.25%, the reverse repo at 5.75%, and reserve requirements unchanged. A released statement stressed uncertainty, guarded optimism, and a wish to see more data to confirm the baseline forecast amid considerable uncertainty affecting the global and Indian economies.
This bi-monthly review is set against the backdrop of heightened uncertainty. Globally, the imminent tightening of monetary policy in the US is triggering bouts of high volatility in financial markets, with the possibility of large spillovers that could have macroeconomic implications for EMEs. In India, while supply disruptions in the backwash of currency replacement may drag down growth this year, it is important to analyse more information and experience before judging their full effects and their persistence – short-term developments that influence the outlook disproportionately warrant caution with respect to setting the monetary policy stance. If the impact is transient as widely expected, growth should rebound strongly. Turning to inflation, food prices other than vegetables are exhibiting sustained firmness and a pick-up in momentum. Another disconcerting feature of recent developments is the downward inflexibility in inflation excluding food and fuel which could set a resistance level for future downward movements in the headline. Moreover, volatility in crude prices and the surge in financial market turbulence could put the inflation target for Q4 of 2016-17 at some risk. Given these indicators of underlying inflation, it is appropriate to look through the transitory but unclear effects of the withdrawal of SBNs while setting the monetary policy stance. On balance, therefore, it is prudent to wait and watch how these factors play out and impinge upon the outlook. Accordingly, the policy repo rate has been kept on hold in this review, while retaining an accommodative policy stance.
Many analysts were expecting a follow-up easing to the cut of 25 basis points made in early October. There had also been a 25-bp reduction last April and 125 basis points of reduction during 2015. On November 8, the government had banned the usage of INR 500 and INR 1,000 notes as a move to, in the central bank’s own words “deal with the problem of high quality counterfeit notes in these denominations and unearth black money that may be held in cash. The decision has not been taken in haste but after detailed deliberations. There had to be a high level of secrecy surrounding this decision and the fact is that such a large country was indeed taken by surprise when the decision was announced. The Reserve Bank and the Central Government were conscious of certain immediate difficulties that the public at large could face and all efforts were made to minimise them and mitigate them. The problems of the common persons were at the top of the policy makers’ radar and all dispensations were calibrated to address them without at the same time jeopardising the achievement of the larger policy objectives…. We reiterate that there is adequate supply of notes and hoarding of notes helps nobody’s cause. We also strongly advocate the public to switch to digital payment modes given that there are several options, there are adequate safeguards and there is an increasing acceptability of this mode of payment by a large number of recipients.”
Fear inspired by the surprise announcement last month created a cash shortage and will impact the economy adversely, but officials are counting on the drag to be short-lived. Instead of easing policy now, the hope is that in time such a move will not be required.
Copyright 2016, Larry Greenberg. All rights reserved. No secondary distribution without express permission.
Tags: Reserve Bank of India