Gokarn hints at rate cuts in next RBI policy review
MDT/PTI 04 June 2012

According to the RBI deputy governor, rising food inflation and depreciating rupee are the conflicting factors the central bank would consider while deciding on policy rates on 18 June

Mumbai: With the economic growth slipping to nine-year low levels, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) deputy governor, Subir Gokarn on Monday said below trend growth and falling crude oil prices offer the central bank a window to ease policy stance, reports PTI.

"(For one,) the growth is somewhat lower than expectations and that may have positive, moderating impact on core inflation. Two, oil prices have come off somewhat more than expected. Those are the two factors that suggest more room (for monetary policy)," Gokarn told reporters on the sidelines of an event.

The economic growth for the three months to March stood at 5.3%, its lowest in nine years, leading to calls for some urgent measures to get it back to track and achieve the targeted 7.3%.

For the financial year 2011-12, GDP growth came down to 6.5%, lower than the 6.7% recorded during the peak of the post-Lehman credit crisis and 8.4% in FY11.

One of factors being blamed for the dip in growth is the Reserve Bank's rate stance, which resulted in elevated interest rates for nearly 20 months as headline inflation continued to remain uncomfortable.

Preliminary indicators on the growth front, coupled with a fall in inflation, led the RBI to announce a surprising 0.50% cut in its key rates in its annual policy announcement in April.

In the announcement, RBI had made it clear that its room for further cuts was very limited given the high current account and fiscal deficits. The mid-quarter policy announcement is scheduled for 18th June.

Gokarn, however, pointed out that rising food inflation and depreciating rupee are the conflicting factors the RBI would consider while deciding on policy rates.

"... some factors suggest room, some factors suggest that inflationary pressure may still remain. I think we'll have to take a balanced view of these factors," he said.

Gokarn also said there has been a slight fall in the rupee price of crude, which came down to below $100 a barrel for the first time in eight months, as the rate of its fall is more than the depreciation of the rupee.

The rupee has lost over 20% in the past 12 months due to factors like widening current account deficit and concerns over the rising fiscal deficit, which have led to a fall in fund flows into the country.

On liquidity, Gokarn said the situation is "comfortable" right now going by the bank borrowings. "If we do see stress re-emerging, particularly with persistence, we clearly have the option of doing more open market operations (OMOs)," Gokarn said.

The liquidity deficit has been above the RBI's comfort mark for the past many months, forcing the central bank to infuse money into the system through bond buybacks also called as open market operations. It has infused over Rs1.25 lakh crore into the system since last November through OMOs.

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