British Deputy High Commission Mumbai
Governor Rajan surprised markets with his maiden monetary policy decision to hike the benchmark interest rate by 25bp in a bid to curtail inflation. Emergency currency defensive measures partially rolled back as expected.
Governor Rajan surprised markets on 20 September with his decision to hike the benchmark interest rate by 25bp. The policy statement had a strong focus on anchoring inflation expectations, pointing out that retail inflation, measured by the CPI, has been high for a number of years, entrenching elevated inflation expectations and eroding consumer and business confidence. The policy also noted that the need to anchor inflation and inflation expectations has to be set against conditions in the industrial sector and urban demand.
As expected, the RBI partially rolled back tightening measures put in place to defend the currency. The policy pointed out that the Bank had committed to maintain tight liquidity conditions until measures to improve the current account deficit and ensure stable funding were in place. Since most measures are now in place and the external environment has improved, a calibrated easing was appropriate.
The Marginal Standing Facility (MSF) rate was reduced by 75bp to 9.5%. The rate was raised by 200bp in July. The MSF rate is the rate at which banks can borrow from the RBI against government securities which are part of their compulsory Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR). However, in mid July the RBI not only raised the MSF rate, but also restricted borrowing under the cheaper repo window to 0. 5% bank book, meaning all additional borrowing would be at the higher MSF rate. This pushed up effective policy rates and consequently short end market rates.
The minimum daily maintenance of the cash reserve ratio (CRR) prescribed by the RBI was also reduced from 99% to 95 %. The guidance stressed that the intention was to normalise the conduct and operations of monetary policy and allow the repo rate to resume its role as the operational policy interest rate. Further unwinding of the exceptional measures will be contingent on market conditions.
India’s corporate sector were disappointed with the RBI’s decision to hike benchmark rates and the hawkish stance. Most analysts however noted that a partial roll back of the liquidity tightening measures, particularly the reduction in the MSF rate would reduce the overall cost of funding for banks and bring down short term interest rates , despite the increase in the benchmark repo rate.
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