RBI likely to ease monetary policy in January

Wants govt and RBI policy harmony

RBI likely to ease monetary policy in January

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) may ease monetary policy as early as January, Governor D Subbarao said.

The RBI has one more meeting scheduled for 2012, in December, when Subbarao said easing was “highly improbable.” He said the bank would next review policy at meetings on January 29 and in mid-March, noting that the bank’s first-quarter easing guidance was based on forecasts for growth and inflation.

“If the growth and inflation trajectories play out as we expected, we would act according to our guidance,” he said in an interview with Reuters. “We would assess the situation in January and try and act according to our guidance. Should the situation be different, then we will have to defer until March.”

Subbarao declined to say whether the central bank would ease by cutting interest rates or lowering bank reserve requirements. But his comments, made on the sidelines of Group of 20 meetings in Mexico City, confirm market expectations of no move by the RBI in December and suggest easing is more likely in January than March, barring surprises in growth or inflation.

Investors, companies and the government have clamoured for a cut in interest rates to boost flagging growth. The central bank expects inflation to ease in the first quarter of 2013, from a 10-month high of 7.8 per cent in September. The central bank’s comfort level is for inflation of 4-5 per cent.

India’s interest rates have been on hold since April at 8.0 per cent, even as many other central banks cut rates, and they remain some of the highest in the world. The central bank has instead cut the cash reserve ratio, the amount of deposits that banks must keep with the central bank, to its lowest since 1976, injecting more cash into the economy.

Subbarao said the central bank had yet to decide whether the easing the bank referred to in its October 30 monetary policy statement would be in the form of interest rates or the reserve ratio requirements.

“What action we take and how we calibrate it will depend on our assessment of the growth and inflation outlook at the time,” he said, noting that reserve requirements have more impact on liquidity whereas policy rates signalled the RBI’s anti-inflation stance.

Subbarao said it was not necessary to see budget figures for next fiscal year before acting, noting that these would not be available by the January policy meeting. “It’s important that the government's fiscal policy and the RBI’s monetary policy act synergistically. So government has an agenda of reforms, they have implemented some of them, they have announced that they will implement some more reforms, so as those reforms play out it will provide for monetary policy to ease,” he said.

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