The Reserve Bank of India is likely to maintain its accommodative monetary policy stance but a faster-than-expected recovery in growth is limiting the scope for further rate cuts, the minutes of the monetary policy committee (MPC) meeting said. The MPC left key interest rates unchanged this month amid persistently high inflation but said it would ensure ample liquidity to stressed sectors to keep the nascent economic recovery on track. “With growth gaining cyclical momentum, the window available to the MPC to look through inflation pressures is narrower than before,” deputy governor and MPC member Michael Patra wrote in the minutes released on Friday.
The economy contracted by a smaller-than-expected 7.5 per cent in the September quarter while retail inflation eased to 6.93 per cent in November but stayed well above the RBI’s mandated 2 per cent-6 per cent target range. “High inflation remains a risk but easing these pressures requires easing supply conditions,” wrote Shashanka Bhide, member of the MPC.
Most members, however, believe inflation remains transient and is largely due to supply-side factors and should start easing post December. A late November poll showed economists expect one last rate cut by the MPC in the April-June quarter. “Though monetary policy so far has provided a bungee cord to the growth, its tensile strength depends on how inflation evolves ahead,” another member Mridul Saggar wrote.
The U.S. Treasury in its long-overdue report released on Wednesday added India to its watch list for currency manipulation following aggressive dollar buying intervention by the RBI, mostly to absorb capital inflows. “The intervention that is raising foreign exchange reserves is required because overvaluation of the rupee can hurt exports, raise country risk and lead to a sharp depreciation later,” member Ashima Goyal said in the minutes.
Though the MPC meeting was held well before the report, it is indicative of the RBI’s thinking on intervention. Several analysts suggested the RBI may ease off on intervention following India’s inclusion in the U.S. watch list but traders suspected RBI presence both on Thursday and Friday to absorb inflows coming into the stock market. “Prolonged inflows can lead to over-valuation without intervention,” Goyal said.