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Contrary to the expectations of bankers and economists the RBI cut repo rate and bank rate by 50 basis points. This may lead to lower interest rates for home loan, auto loan and corporate loans
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Tuesday surprised everyone by cutting the repo rate and bank rate by 50 basis points (bps) as against the overall expectations of a 25 bps reduction in its annual credit policy. This is the first time after a gap of three years that the central bank has reduced repo rates. The reduction in the repo rate is based on an assessment of growth having slowed below its post-crisis trend rate which, in turn, is contributing to a moderation in core inflation, the RBI said. The cut in repo rate will reduce cost of home, auto and corporate loans.
Barclays Capital, in a note, said, "In our view, the RBI's guidance suggests that it has merged a couple of "baby steps" into today's move and will possibly stay on hold for awhile. We believe the central bank will examine the scope for further monetary easing on a case-by-case basis in the coming months, with a bias towards not cutting the repo rate further in the next one to two policy meetings."
The central bank in its monetary policy for 2012-13 cut the repo (the rate at which the RBI lends money to banks) rate to 8% from 8.5% and bank rate to 9% from 9.5%. It, however, left the cash reserve ratio (CRR) unchanged at 4.75% while the reverse repo rate (the rate at which the RBI borrows from banks), with a window of 100 bps with repo rate, automatically stands adjusted at 7%.
RBI, in a release, said it decided to raise the borrowing limit of scheduled commercial banks under the marginal standing facility (MSF) from 1% to 2% of their net demand and time liabilities (NDTL) outstanding at the end of second preceding fortnight with immediate effect.
Indicating that there is limited space for further reduction in policy rates, the central bank said, “Persistent demand pressures emerging from inadequate steps to contain subsidies as indicated in the recent Union Budget will further reduce whatever space there is. In this context, it must be pointed out that, while revisions in administered prices may adversely impact headline inflation, the appropriate monetary policy response to this should be based on whether the higher prices translate into generalised inflationary pressures.”
“By shifting a stance towards favouring growth and cutting repo rate by 50 bps at a one go, RBI has certainly come up with the trick that is actually required at the moment. However, risks to inflation discussed in the macroeconomic report are some of the concerns that may act as a hurdle in the course of loosening of monetary policy,” said DK Aggarwal, chairman and managing director of SMC Investments and Advisors.
Speaking on effects of the RBI policy on real estate, Om Ahuja, chief executive for Residential Services at Jones Lang LaSalle India, said, "We do expect that there will be a marginal increase in home loan borrowings because of this positive move. That said, the series of hikes in the past have also affected the price that builders put on their properties, since their own cost of borrowing has increased. It is unlikely that property prices will come down because of this rate cut, and it is the price of properties that is the decisive factor in residential real estate sales. In fact, it is very likely that there will be an upward bias on property rates because of the anticipated improvement of sentiments with buyers who have so far been sitting on the fence, waiting for some signals of relief."
Last month, the RBI slashed CRR—the percentage of deposits that banks have to keep with the RBI—from 5.5% to 4.75%. With this, the central bank had infused Rs48,000 crore into the economy. Showing persistent sluggishness in the economy, industrial production growth slowed to 4.1% in February this year, mainly due to poor performance of the manufacturing sector and consumer goods segment.
At the same time, inflation has been hovering around 7% and global crude oil prices are still over $100 per barrel, adding to inflationary pressures. Inflation was 6.89% in March much above the RBI's comfort level.
Mushtaq Ahmad, chairman, Jammu & Kashmir Bank, said, "When we are expanding our corporate and SME loan book outside the J&K State, the rate cut scenario will allow us generate volumes, customer base and remain competitive. We will be happy to pass on the benefit of cut to borrowers. Though seemed temporary, the initiative is an act of re-balancing towards checking inflation.”
RBI, which increased the key policy rate 13 times between March 2010 and October 2011 to tame inflation, did not hike the repo rate (short term lending rate) in the last three policy reviews.
On the other hand, India's GDP grew by the slowest pace in the last three years to just 6.1% in the third quarter of 2011-12.
The GDP growth rate for the third quarter was lower compared to 6.9% in the previous quarter and 8.3% in the same quarter last financial year.
Since October 2011, the repo of RBI has stood at 8.5%. Repo rate is the signalling rate. Other policy rates like reverse repo and bank rate adjust automatically with change in the repo rate.
Inflation was the key driver that guided the Reserve Bank to tighten money supply, and later hold rates during the past 36 months. The period also saw it inflicting 13 simultaneous hikes, by 3.75% in repo rates over the 19-month period, making it one of the most aggressive central banks in the world.
Apart from hurting investment activity, the rate hikes severely hurt the retail borrowers as higher loan repayments put household budgets for a toss.
RBI made a conscious effort at placating this class by reiterating that banks should not charge pre-payment penalties from home loan borrowers. It also announced to set up a working group to assess the possibility of having long-term fixed interest products which will not be exposed to interest rate changes.
The followings are the highlights of the Annual Monetary Policy for 2012-13 announced by RBI Governor D Subbarao on Tuesday...