RBI review on July 31: Inflation could play spoiler again

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) may find it difficult to cut key lending rates in its policy review on July 31 – being demanded by the industry to boost the economy – with deficient monsoon adding to its inflation worries.

Although bankers expect RBI to cut the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) by up to 0.50 per cent in the monetary policy review on July 31, the central bank is likely to not pay heed to India Inc’s demand as inflation, at over 7 per cent, is much above its comfort level.

Moreover, uncertainty over monsoon is likely to put pressure on prices of essential commodities. On an average, rainfall deficiency across the country is 21 per cent so far.

RBI Governor D Subbarao will unveil the first quarter policy review and, if his recent comments on inflation as well as fiscal and current account deficit numbers are any indication, it may turn out to be a non-event.

While GDP growth hit a nine-year low last fiscal at 6.5 per cent, WPI-based inflation was at 7.25 per cent in June. Retail inflation is hovering at 10.02 per cent.

RBI had left policy rates and CRR – a portion of deposits that banks are required to keep with the central bank – unchanged at the last meeting on June 16.

Meanwhile, Subbarao said recently that RBI will study the relationship between high interest rates and growth slowdown.

Bankers, meanwhile, have said they expect a 0.5 per cent reduction in CRR, which currently stands at 4.75 per cent. They, however, do not see a reduction in the repo rate from the current 8 per cent.

“We expect a 50 basis point reduction in CRR to ease money supply. Also a CRR cut will have a cooling effect on the interest rates for customers apart from better effect on monetary transmission than a repo cut,” State Bank of India Chairman Pratip Chaudhuri said.

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