RBI May Opt For Small Rate Hikes As Inflation In October Eases: Report

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is likely to opt for a 35 basis points (bps) rate hike at its policy meeting in December, after three consecutive 50 bps increases, as inflation eased in October and is likely to dip further, quoting analysts news agency Reuters said on Tuesday.

The central bank has already raised rates by 190 bps since May, to 5.90 per cent, as it battles to rein in inflation that has stayed above its 2-6 per cent tolerance band for ten straight months now. Its Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) will next meet on December 7.

Still, inflation eased to a three-month low of 6.77 per cent in October from a five-month high of 7.41 per cent in September, helped by a slower rise in food prices and a higher base effect, which economists said would mean smaller rate hikes going forward.

“Our base case envisages a 35 bps hike in December and a final 25 bps hike in February for a terminal repo rate of 6.50 per cent,” said Nomura economists, Sonal Varma and Aurodeep Nandi.

Barclays expects inflation to ease further to 6.5 per cent in November and also forecasts a 35 bps hike next month, before the RBI shifts to a neutral stance.

Meanwhile, India Ratings expects an even sharper pullback given that the central bank has a front-loaded monetary tightening policy.

“We expect a status quo or, at best, a 25 bps rate hike in December.”

Kotak Mahindra Bank said while inflation remains elevated, it likely peaked in September and favourable base effects would guide the inflation trajectory to below 6 per cent from March.

The private lender’s economists also expect a 35 bps hike in December and expect the MPC members to evaluate the impact of “previous rate hikes, improving sowing patterns of wheat and seasonal fall in perishable food items, and spillovers from global slowdown on the domestic economy.”

The spate of relatively large rate hikes has sparked concerns that the battle against inflation could risk curbing economic growth as well, a view that Nomura’s Varma and Nandi say could force the central bank’s hand to even pause hikes.

“Based on our view that growth signals will incrementally start worsening and given the current split within the MPC, there is a risk the RBI may deliver a final rate hike in December and then opt for a pause.”