Nobody expects RBI to tinker with rates when it announces the decision of its MPC (Monetary Policy Committee) meeting on Wednesday, the first policy decision of the new calendar year and the first after the Union Budget.
From the time of the RBI’s last policy on December 6, the yield on the 10-year benchmark has only moved in one direction — up and up. The movement in yield isn’t an isolated phenomenon — all indicators tracked by RBI watchers are unequivocally pointing towards the end of the easing cycle.
Markets, therefore, wouldn’t be surprised with a “hawkish” tone; they are in fact looking for cues to the timing of the first rate increase of the cycle.
Inflation will continue to remain a worry
In the last few months, the RBI has been gradually nudging up its inflation forecast. While keeping the medium-term target for consumer price index (CPI) inflation of 4 per cent within a band of +/- 2 per cent, the Central Bank had raised the near-term forecast of inflation to 4.3-4.7 percent for the second half of FY18.
Courtesy the low base, Consumer Price Inflation (CPI) rose to 5.21% in December, thereby crossing the expected zone. RBI will be keeping an eye on how the fading impact of the central government’s HRA (house rent allowance) component along with pass-through of a fall in GST rates impacts inflation in the coming months.
Crude – the usual party spoiler
In recent times, RBI and the government have both openly expressed their concerns about rising crude oil prices — India’s historic macroeconomic vulnerability. In fact, the recently released Economic Survey points fingers at aggressive output cuts by Saudi Arabia (and Russia) in advance of the planned listing of the Saudi Arabian oil company, Aramco, which could force oil prices even higher.
Strong global growth & commodity prices
The International Monetary Fund in its latest outlook report has mentioned that it is witnessing the broadest synchronized global growth upsurge since 2010. Global output is estimated to have grown by 3.7 percent in 2017, and the growth forecasts for 2018 and 2019 have been revised upward by 0.2 percentage points to 3.9 percent.
Growth – making a comeback
The Economic Survey expects real GDP growth to reach 6.75% in FY18, higher than the CSO’s forecast of 6.5 percent, implying that growth in the second half would rebound to 7.5 percent. Growth is expected to rebound to 7-7.5% in FY19.
Credit growth has also picked up. From the lows of 5%, credit growth has now hit double digits (10.1%) and according to bankers, it is not just the demonetisation base effect, there are early signs of genuine revival.
Thanks to the base, the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) has seen a sharp surge in the month of November 2017.