RBI likely to hike key policy rate till January 12: Experts

More rate hikes by the central bank are in store as the RBI in its mid-quarterly review of monetary policy has cautioned that the current level of high inflation makes it imperative to continue with the anti-inflationary stance and tight monetary policy

New Delhi: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is likely to maintain its hawkish stand and further increase key policy rate up till January 2012, to tame inflationary pressures, reports PTI quoting experts.

The RBI on Friday hiked its key rate by 25 basis points, the 12th time since March last year to tame high inflation overlooking sliding growth.

The short-term lending (or repo) rate to banks by RBI stands revised to 8.25%, while the borrowing (reverse repo) rate is set at 7.25%.

Industry experts project the WPI (wholesale price index) based inflation, which rose to 9.78% in August—much higher than the RBI’s comfort level of 5%-6% per cent—to remain above 9% level until December this year.

The next policy review is due on 25th October.

According to a research report by global banking giant Standard Chartered, “The RBI will increase the policy rates by 25 basis points at the October policy as well. If anything, the tone of the policy statement keeps the door open for further rate hikes after October.”

“We do not rule out further rate hikes up to January 2012,” brokerage firm Angel Broking said in a research note.

Rating agency Care expressed similar views. “The RBI is likely to continue with its anti-inflationary stance till the year end,” it said.

Brokerage firm Elara Securities also expects the central bank to further raise policy rates by 25 basis points in the October policy review.

“If the domestic inflation scenario does not worsen and macroeconomic scenario stabilises at current levels, we view rates peaking at 8.5%,” the report said.

More rate hikes by the central bank are in store as the RBI in its mid-quarterly review of monetary policy has cautioned that the current level of high inflation makes it imperative to continue with the anti-inflationary stance and tight monetary policy.

The future monetary policy stance, it said, would depend on the level of inflation.

The RBI has raised rates by a total 350 basis points since March 2010. Despite this, the inflation has stubbornly remained near double digit, while the first quarter gross domestic product (GDP) slipped to 7.7% from 8.8% a year ago.

Standard Chartered, however, believes that India is only using one policy lever—increase in interest rates—to counter inflationary pressures, and there is very little emphasis on other policies.

“Fiscal policy remains accommodative and might have contributed substantially to demand-side pressures in the recent past,” it said.

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General insurance industry to reach Rs90,000 crore by 2015:Assocham

Motor insurance would continue to remain the largest category, contributing over 40% of industry premiums. Besides, the health insurance segment will grow the fastest and account for close to 30% of total industry premiums by 2015, according to Assocham secretary general DS Rawat

New Delhi: The general insurance industry is estimated to grow by over 18% to reach a size of Rs90,000 crore by 2015 from the current size of Ra47,000 crore, reports PTI quoting industry chamber Assocham.

Motor insurance would continue to remain the largest category, contributing over 40% of industry premiums, Assocham said in a statement.

“India will be one of the fastest growing markets in Asia and globally—next only to China among major markets,” it said.

India will become the third-largest car market globally by 2020, with over 70 lakh cars sold annually, driving growth in motor insurance, Assocham said.

Besides, total expenditure on healthcare will be Rs20 lakh crore, creating significant opportunities for coverage through health insurance.

"The health insurance segment will grow the fastest and account for close to 30% of total industry premiums by 2015,” Assocham secretary general DS Rawat said.

Within health insurance, the government sponsored health schemes will grow the fastest while retail will emerge as the largest opportunity, he said.

Further, with increase in infrastructure spending, there would be opportunities for insuring these projects as well.

In the next Five Year Plan beginning April 2012, investment is infrastructure sector involving road, port, railway and power is envisaged at $1 trillion.

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6 killed as 6.8 magnitude earthquake jolts northeast

Four persons were killed in Sikkim, one each in West Bengal and Bihar and at least five were reported dead in Nepal. Tremors were felt in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, parts of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chandigarh, Delhi, neighbouring Nepal and Bangladesh

Gangtok: A powerful earthquake with a 6.8 magnitude rocked north-eastern Indian state of Sikkim and other parts in the north-east on Sunday evening leaving at least six persons dead and over 50 injured besides causing extensive damage to several buildings, reports PTI.

Four persons were killed in Sikkim—two at Singtham, one at Dikchu in East Sikkim district and another at Mangan—as the government sought the army’s assistance in reaching help to the affected, state chief secretary Karma Gyatso told PTI here.

One person was killed in Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal and another in Nalanda district in Bihar.

The National Disaster Relief Force was on its way to Sikkim and would reach the state by tomorrow, Mr Gyatso said.

Many tall buildings developed cracks in Gangtok and Darjeeling and window panes shattered as people came out in large numbers in panic. The earthquake claimed one life at Singtham in East Sikkim district, while another died just outside Singtham.

The epicentre of the quake—the biggest in two decades—was located at Mangan and Sakyong areas, over 50 km from Gangtok on Sikkim-Nepal border.

Tremors were felt in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, parts of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chandigarh and Delhi.

Several buildings developed major cracks in the state as personnel of the Disaster Management Team were deployed, Mr Gyatso said.

Two buildings of the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) collapsed in Pegong area though there was no immediate report of any casualty, a senior official said.

Three after shocks of 5.7, 5.3 and 4.6 magnitude on the Richter scale were felt in the region within 30 minutes of the first quake.

“Tremors were felt between 30 seconds to one minute in some parts of Sikkim, including Gangtok,” Shailesh Nayak, secretary in the ministry of earth sciences, said in Delhi.

Mr Gyatso described it as “a massive earthquake. We have alerted the armed forced and the paramilitary personnel.”

Prime minister Manmohan Singh spoke to Sikkim chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling and offered help in all possible ways, including availability of defence forces.

The prime minister directed Cabinet secretary to call an emergency meeting of the National Disaster Management Authority, PMO sources said.

Five IAF planes were pressed into action for relief operations.

Two teams of the National Disaster Response Force—five each from Delhi and Kolkata—are being sent to assist in the relief and rescue operations, RK Srivastava, joint secretary, Disaster Management, in the home ministry, said.

RS Basnet, principal secretary to Sikkim chief minister’s office said the army’s assistance has been sought.

A woman was seriously injured in Gangtok near a cinema hall in the market area when stones from a wall fell on her, he said.

Reports said a building housing a small hotel in Sintam in East Sikkim district collapsed and people were being evacuated. Another house collapsed in Dikchu town in the same district. A portion of the market at Dikchu also collapsed.

Several buildings in Gangtok developed major cracks and people were seen moving to the Paljor stadium and other open areas.

Power and water supply connections got snapped and continuous rains during the last three days worsened the situation.

Around 200 people have been brought to the ITBP relief camp in Gangtok.

Army columns in small teams were deployed in rescue mission across Sikkim. The columns comprised medical teams with first aid, engineer detachments and relief and rescue units, an army official said.

The tremor was felt in Delhi and Kolkata as well as Ranchi, Darjeeling. Jalpaiguri, Siliguri, Birbhum and Bankura districts in West Bengal.

“Darjeeling and Kalimpong are now in total darkness," West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said, adding, “We have alerted all district magistrates throughout the state.”

A Patna report said the tremor was felt in various parts of Bihar, including Darbhanga.

Neighbouring Jharkhand also felt the shock, according to a Ranchi report.

In the north, besides the national capital, the tremors were felt in Jaipur and nearby areas of Rajasthan.

Panic gripped people in Lucknow and some other places in Uttar Pradesh where the quake was also felt.

The quake also jolted Nepal killing at least five people, three of them outside the British Embassy in capital Kathmandu.

Three people were killed when a high brick wall of the British Embassy at Lainchaur collapsed due to earthquake, police said.

A man and his daughter and another pedestrian died after the wall of the Embassy collapsed on them.

The Indian Embassy premises which is adjoining to the British Embassy compound did not suffer any damage, according to a mission spokesperson.

The earthquake also jolted Bangladesh, sparking panic among the people, though there was no immediate report of any casualty.

Thousands of people rushed to the streets from high-rise buildings in panic as they sought information about their family members following the tremor at around 6:45pm.

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