The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) held its third bi-monthly monetary policy meeting for FY24 in August. The decision to keep the repo rate unchanged at 6.5% has garnered attention, marking the third consecutive pause. Let's delve into the key takeaways from the recent policy announcement and understand its potential impact on the economy and financial markets.
Repo Rate Unchanged
RBI's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) decided to maintain the repo rate at 6.5%, in line with market expectations. This marks a continuity of the status quo, indicating the central bank's cautious approach amid economic uncertainties. The unchanged rate reflects RBI's concern over inflation, aiming to ensure price stability and sustainable economic growth.
Inflation Outlook and Projections Revised
One of the significant developments in the August policy was the upward revision of inflation projections. The RBI raised its CPI inflation forecast for FY24 from 5.1% to 5.4%. This adjustment is attributed to factors like uneven monsoons affecting vegetable prices and global food price fluctuations.
Incremental Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) Implemented
Governor Shaktikanta Das introduced a novel measure to absorb excess liquidity within the banking system without altering the cash reserve ratio (CRR). An incremental CRR of 10% was implemented, withdrawing over Rs 1 lakh crore of additional liquidity. This move seeks to manage liquidity overhang and ensure financial and price stability, although it may have some short-term implications for banking sector liquidity.
Promoting Transparency in Home Loan Rates
The RBI has asked banks to improve transparency in adjusting interest rates and EMIs for variable-rate home loans based on external standards. This decision is intended to ensure clear information and options for borrowers, improve consumer protection and an understanding of interest rate dynamics.
Economic Growth Outlook
Despite concerns over inflation, RBI projected a resilient GDP growth rate for FY24 at 6.5%. Das said, “The total flow of resources to the commercial sector from banks and other sources taken together has increased by Rs 7.5 lakh crore during the financial year 2023-24 so far (up to July 28) as compared with Rs 5.7 lakh crore a year ago.” Now that’s an increase of 31.6% from a year ago, reflecting the strong growth momentum in the economy, in spite of the rate hikes by the central bank.
The growth trajectory indicates positive expectations, with Q1 projected at 8% and a progressive decline over subsequent quarters. The central bank's confidence in economic recovery reflects the nation's overall stability and growth potential.
Market Impact and Investor Outlook
The RBI has emphasized its commitment to maintaining inflation at the 4% target. Consequently, it is unlikely we'll see any rate reductions this fiscal year, implying that the policy rate will stay elevated for an extended period. Does this suggest a slowdown in growth? Well, the interest coverage for non-financial listed entities and manufacturing firms is notably higher now compared to pre-pandemic levels. Despite increasing interest rates, growth and profitability haven't been adversely impacted. Moreover, with the upcoming general elections next year, the government is likely to make efforts to control food inflation.
RBI Governor highlighted that there's an uptick in investment activity, driven by government spending, a boost in business confidence, and a resurgence in private capital expenditure in some major sectors. The construction sector is also witnessing robust activity. Moreover, Das emphasized that the overall demand remains strong. All these factors should support the markets.
In its August monetary policy, the RBI struck a careful balance between fostering economic expansion and managing inflationary concerns. The choice to retain the repo rate and adopt innovative strategies like raising the CRR showcases a prudent monetary policy direction.
Even though the rate decision met general anticipations, the RBI's hawkish tone suggests a delayed possibility of future rate cuts, especially in light of heightened inflation forecasts. This indicates that the funding costs for banks will persist at high levels and might even rise in the coming quarters as deposits reprice with a lag effect. As a result, banks’ net interest margins may remain under pressure in the short term. Moreover, there's limited scope for improvement in asset quality, hinting that banks will need to streamline operational expenses to ensure profitability for FY24.
Looking to stay ahead in the fast-paced financial world? Discover the power of Liquide, your ultimate financial companion. With features like LiMo for real-time market insights, Liquide ensures you're informed and equipped to make smart decisions. Download the Liquide app now from Google Play Store and Apple Appstore. Elevate your financial journey with Liquide today!