“The decision of the MPC is consistent with an accommodative stance of monetary policy in consonance with the objective of achieving consumer price index (CPI) inflation at 5 per cent by Q4 of 2016-17 and the medium-term target of 4 per cent within a band of +/- 2 per cent, while supporting growth,” the fourth Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement, 2016-17 Resolution of the MPC said.
In its assessment of the current economic and monetary situation, MPC said global growth has been slowing more than anticipated through 2016 so far, with weak investment and trade damping aggregate demand. “Meanwhile, risks in the form of Brexit, banking stress in Europe, rebalancing of debt-fuelled growth in China, rising protectionism and diminishing confidence in monetary policy have slanted the outlook to the downside.”
World trade volume has contracted sharper than expected in the first half of 2016, and the outlook has worsened with the recent falling off of imports by advanced economies (AEs) from emerging market economies (EMEs). Inflation remains subdued in AEs and has started to edge down in EMEs.
Speaking about domestic front, the MPC said the outlook for agricultural activity has brightened considerably. The south west monsoon ended the season with a cumulative deficit of only 3 per cent below the long period average, with 85 per cent of the country's geographical area having received normal to excess precipitation. Kharif sowing has surpassed last year's acreage, barring cotton, sugarcane and jute and mesta.
The industrial sector, by contrast, suffered a manufacturing-driven contraction in early fiscal year Q2, after a sequential deceleration in gross value added in Q1. Even after trimming the statistical effects of the lumpy and order-driven contraction of insulated rubber cables, industrial production as measured by the index of industrial production (IIP) turned out to be slower than a year ago.
Nonetheless, business expectations polled in the Reserve Bank's industrial outlook survey and by other agencies remain expansionary in Q2 and Q3. The strong public investment in roads, railways and inland waterways, the recent efforts to unclog cash flows in large projects under arbitration, and the boost to spending from the 7th Pay Commission's award, should improve the industrial outlook.
In the services sector, the acceleration in the pace of activity in Q1 appears to have been sustained. An increasing number of high frequency indicators are moving into positive territory, construction is boosted by policy initiatives, and public administration, defence and other services will be supported by the pay commission award.
In the external sector, merchandise exports contracted in the first two months of Q2. Subdued domestic demand was, however, reflected in a faster contraction in imports. Moreoever, the still soft crude prices pared off a fifth of the oil import bill and gold import volume slumped to a fifth of its volume a year ago. Consequently, the merchandise trade deficit narrowed by $10 billion in April-August on a year-on-year basis.
While the pace of foreign direct investment slowed compared to a year ago, portfolio flows were stronger after the Brexit vote, galvanised by a search for returns in an expanding universe of negative yields. The level of foreign exchange reserves rose to $372 billion by September 30, 2016 – an all-time high. (RKS)
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