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The shift in RBI’s stance came, but not in the repo rate as most people were expecting today.The Monetary Policy Committee ( MPC) decided to change the stance from neutral to “calibrated tightening” of monetary policy, which in plain English means that rate cuts are probably off the table, and RBI can decide on when to raise or not raise rates depending on how fresh data comes in.

Whilst a 0.25% hike in the repo rate was the consensus view of the expected MPC action today, with some even expecting a 0.5% hike, the policy statement surprised markets – bonds positively, equities and the rupee negatively, with RBI choosing to do nothing, as MPC members voted 5:1 in favor of an unchanged repo rate at 6.50%. This was also probably driven by the fact that there have been two consecutive rate hikes in the last two MPC meetings.

They stuck with their primary mandate i.e. controlling inflation, with the objective to achieve medium term target for CPI inflation of 4 percent within the range of +/- 2%, while supporting growth.

Since the last MPC meet in August 2018, the Indian basket of crude oil has increased sharply by US$ 13 a barrel, whilst global economic activity has been able to withstand ongoing trade tensions thus far. Food inflation has remained unusually weak, which imparts a downward bias to its trajectory in the second half of the year. The risk to the food inflation from a 9% deficit in the monsoon, is also probably mitigated by higher production of major kharif crops for 2018-19 than last year’s record. An estimate of the impact of an increase in minimum support prices (MSPs) announced in July has been factored in the baseline projections.

The projected inflation in Q2:2018-19 is at 4%, 3.9%-4.5% in the second half and 4.8% in Q1:2019-20 with risks on the upside, which were lower than earlier estimates.

With risks broadly balanced GDP growth projection for 2018-2019 was lowered at 7.4% against 7.5 % in August due to strong base effect.Private consumption has remained strong and is likely to be sustained even as the recent rise in oil prices may have a bearing on disposable incomes. However, both global and domestic financial conditions have tightened, which may dampen investment activity. Rising crude oil prices and other input costs may also drag down investment activity by denting profit margins of corporates. This adverse impact will be alleviated to the extent corporates are able to pass on increases in their input costs. Uncertainty surrounds the outlook for exports. The recent rupee depreciating could be negated by slowing down of global trade and the escalating tariff wars.

Global headwinds in the form of escalating trade tensions, volatile and rising oil prices, and tightening of global financial conditions therefore pose substantial risks to the growth and inflation outlook.

Your Investments

As we see change in stance from neutral to calibrating tightening signals that rate cuts are off the table. Concerns seem to be around crude oil prices, global interest rates and the ongoing global developments on the trade front. Equities continue to trade at a premium and whilst it may be very tempting to buy lumpsums as equities have fallen substantially, equity valuations in India continue to be elevated vis a vis long term averages. A gradual entry strategy or a continued SIP/STP strategy is most suited to the current market scenario. It may be a good idea to add fixed income exposure through a combination of largely ultra short term, short and medium term strategies focused on high credit quality portfolios, to avoid any spillover of the continuing bad loan cycle on your investments.

Your Loans

After hiking the repo rate twice in a row, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has kept the key policy rates unchanged. However, the central bank has changed its stance on the key policy rates to ‘calibrated tightening’. This indicates that RBI is of the view that there is upward pressure on interest rates which means your EMIs are likely to continue ti go up. Expect banks to raise rates gradually even though RBI kept rates constant today.

Way forward

The next policy is due on December 5, but don’t be surprised for mid course corrections if the data so warrants. Ultimately that’s what caliberated tightening probably alludes to.

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