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Experts weigh in on India's interest rates as economic outlook improves

Reuters/Mumbai
Filed on February 5, 2021
Reuters

Reserve Bank of India keeps rates steady at record low levels as country in recovery mode post-pandemic.

India’s central bank kept rates steady at record low levels as expected on Friday and said it would maintain support for the economy’s recovery from the pandemic by ensuring ample liquidity for markets to absorb a massive government borrowing programme.

“Going forward, the Indian economy is poised to move in only one direction and that is upwards. It is our strong conviction, backed by forecasts, that in 2021/22, we would undo the damage that Covid-19 has inflicted on the economy,” Reserve Bank of India Governor Shaktikanta Das said after announcing the rate decision.

The repo rate or RBI’s key lending rate was held at 4% while the reverse repo rate or its borrowing rate was left unchanged at 3.35%.

The repo rate has been cut by a total 115 basis points since March 2020 to cushion the shock from the coronavirus pandemic, following a 135 bps reduction since beginning of 2019.

Das said the six members of the monetary policy committee (MPC) were unanimous in their decision to keep rates on hold.

RUPA REGE NITSURE, GROUP CHIEF ECONOMIST, L&T FINANCIAL HOLDINGS, MUMBAI

“While the MPC didn’t take any rate action, its assurance on retaining the accommodative stance and a few other measures to ease credit are positive from a growth perspective. However, gilt market players were expecting more specific calendar on open market operations and hence were disappointed.”

“A decision to normalise the cash reserve ratio also reflects the MPC’s intent that excess liquidity will be absorbed gradually. The RBI’s support to direct credit measures rather is certainly praiseworthy.”

MADHAVI ARORA, LEAD ECONOMIST, EMKAY GLOBAL FINANCIAL SERVICES LTD, MUMBAI

“Overall, we believe the RBI reiterated the dovish stance on rates and we see policy rates on status quo in FY22. The liquidity stance is unlikely to diverge from the accommodative policy stance in the near term. Meanwhile, we think the RBI will continue to ensure that money market skewness is being tackled, pressure on the longer end of the curve is managed well, and maintain its preference for curve flattening. Actions such as Operation Twist/OMOs will continue to smoothen the distribution of liquidity across the yield curve. We also watch out for introduction of tools like MSS bonds and/or Standing Deposit Facility etc. ahead.”

AURODEEP NANDI, INDIA ECONOMIST, NOMURA, MUMBAI

“The RBI clearly communicated that it doesn’t intend to yank away the liquidity carpet in a way that topples the vases of growth recovery and fiscal financing resting on it.”

“Be it the extension of HTM dispensation or the unprecedented step of allowing retail investors to invest in government securities, or allaying market fears on the CRR normalization and reassuring that the hike in fact opens up space for further liquidity operations — all have been designed keeping in mind the smooth absorption of the government’s large borrowing programme.”

“In the midst of this, the status quo in policy rates and dovish policy stance correctly takes into cognizance the current growth-inflation dynamics, and has been in line with our expectations.”

RAJEEV RADHAKRISHNAN, CIO-FIXED INCOME, SBI MUTUAL FUND, MUMBAI

“Maintaining status quo on rates and stance was the expected outcome of the policy review. But, lack of specific market intervention measures to ensure smooth absorption of the enhanced market borrowings remains the key disappointment from the fixed-income market perspective.”

“Providing retail investors a direct avenue to invest in government securities is a welcome announcement from a longer-term perspective.”

“While the promise of additional liquidity infusion post the unwinding of the CRR cut in two phases by Q1 FY22 holds the promise of OMO interventions, the immediate market action is a fair reflection of market absorption capacity.”

“In the absence of direct and more specific up-front market intervention through OMO/Twist, near-term concerns remain of a gradual uptick in bond yields and continued uncertainty on the demand side as the borrowing program commences for FY22.”

SHASHANK MENDIRATTA, ECONOMIST, IBM, NEW DELHI

“The RBI provided an upbeat assessment on the economy, highlighting that the outlook has improved significantly. We concur with this assessment as high frequency indicators also point to a gradual normalisation of activity. The central bank also emphasised on the importance of higher fiscal spending, particularly capex to support recovery. While the RBI was sanguine on the near-term food-price outlook, the assessment on core inflation was cautious amid rise in input prices.”

“The normalisation of economic activity, amid a strong fiscal push, have reduced the need for rate-cuts. The RBI is likely to remain on a prolonged pause through 2021. Having said that, the central bank will continue to remain in an accommodative stance to nurture the recovery.”

SAKSHI GUPTA, SENIOR ECONOMIST, HDFC BANK, GURUGRAM

“With significant government borrowings in the first-half, rising inflation risks, and lower liquidity surplus, bond yields are likely to remain under pressure, going ahead. We expect bond yields to trade between 5.95% and 6.10% in the first half of fiscal 2022.”

“On inflation estimates, the RBI did sound some caution in terms of inflation risks in the year ahead and revised up its H1 inflation estimate to 5%-5.2%. We expect inflation to average at 5.3% in H1. Over the medium term, one must keep in mind that an expansionary fiscal policy is structurally inflationary and should be watched out for.”

RADHIKA RAO, ECONOMIST, DBS BANK, SINGAPORE:

“The RBI’s assessment was nuanced, with FY22 growth estimate set at a firm 10.5% y/y while looking beyond the near-term cool off in inflation and flagging risks that core inflation might prove sticky owing to demand impulses from a revival in economic activity and higher commodity prices. The budget’s investment and social sector orientation were seen as improving the quality of the fiscal math and as a positive for potential growth.”

“Bond markets were met with some support, firstly an extension of the HTM enhancement to March 2023 and widening the investor pool by allowing retail investors direct access to gilts through the RBI, but an explicit OMO/OT announcement was absent, leading to a bearish reaction in bond prices. Cost of financing (risk-free rates) is, nonetheless, likely to settle at a slightly higher level as activity normalises.”

“On liquidity, the RBI clarified that the overall stance was still accommodative whilst liquidity is likely to be withdrawn in a calibrated pace to prevent a dilution in the policy transmission. CRR normalisation remains on track, with a staggered restoration.”

ANAGHA DEODHAR, CHIEF ECONOMIST, ICICI SECURITIES, MUMBAI

“We expect inflation to come down in the coming months. The MPC expects real GDP to grow 10.5% in FY22 and inflation to print at 5%-5.2% in the second half of fiscal 2022.”

“On the regulatory front, the most important announcements are two-phased normalisation of CRR, extending HTM limit for SLR holdings, deferment of capital conservation buffer and allowing retail investment in gilts. Overall, the MPC’s decision bodes well for growth and financial stability.”

GARIMA KAPOOR, ECONOMIST - INSTITUTIONAL EQUITIES, ELARA CAPITAL, MUMBAI

“Dispelling worries of possible hardening of market rates owing to the expected high supply of government bonds in FY22, the RBI today extended its accommodative stance to liquidity and hinted that it would stand pat to support the government’s borrowing program.”

“While there was no surprise with respect to the rate decision, we believe the decision to allow a retail investor to have direct access to participate in G-sec market is revolutionary and path-breaking.”

“The RBI will have to walk a tight rope in FY22 in balancing growth-inflation dynamics amid a huge supply of government bonds.”

KUNAL KUNDU, INDIA ECONOMIST, SOCIETE GENERALE, BENGALURU

“Given that the monetary policy framework is up for review in March, it made no sense to cut the policy rate in this meeting. For January, we expect the inflation to drop marginally to 4.4% yoy from 4.6%. More importantly though, with inflation heading decisively towards the RBI’s median target of 4%, we are quite comfortable with our call of the next rate-cut during Q2 of 2020.”

“Importantly, the RBI talked about supporting growth. We would likely see the RBI coming to the aid of the government, even in the fiscal space either by opting for debt monetization or sharing a portion of their excess reserve so that the fund can be used specifically for infrastructure development.”

“This is all the more so given that we see a good possibility that the budgeted public capex for FY22 will fall short of the target unless the RBI gets into the act.”

PRITHVIRAJ SRINIVAS, CHIEF ECONOMIST, AXIS CAPITAL, MUMBAI

“The RBI kept policy rate on hold as expected and reiterated its accommodative stance. The operative word in today’s (Friday) policy was the governor’s reiteration of a previous statement that ‘orderly evolution of bond markets was a public good’. The bank’s inflation projection at 5% in the coming quarters reflects non-food price pressures currently seen in the economy which should keep the central bank watchful, even as economic recovery speeds up and liquidity remains bountiful on capital inflows as well as a large public borrowing programme.”





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