RBI keeps repo rate unchanged at 4.0%, says economic recovery still to gather firm traction
Reserve Bank of IndiaFile photo

RBI keeps repo rate unchanged at 4.0%, says economic recovery still to gather firm traction

Mumbai, February 5, 2021

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today kept its key policy repo rate unchanged at 4.0 per cent, with its Monetary Policy Committeee (MPC) of the view that economic recovery is still to gather firm traction and, hence, continued policy support was crucial.

Consequently, the reverse repo rate under the LAF remains unchanged at 3.35 per cent and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate at 4.25 per cent, the RBI said in its Monetary Policy Statement, 2020-21 on the basis of the resolution of the MPC, which met here from February 3-5.

The MPC also decided to continue with the accommodative stance as long as necessary – at least during the current financial year and into the next financial year – to revive growth on a durable basis and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, while ensuring that inflation remains within the target going forward.

"These decisions are in consonance with the objective of achieving the medium-term target for consumer price index (CPI) inflation of 4 per cent within a band of +/- 2 per cent, while supporting growth," a press release from RBI said.

The central bank, after taking into consideration various factors, revised the projection for CPI inflation to 5.2 per cent in Q4:2020-21, 5.2 per cent to 5.0 per cent in H1:2021-22 and 4.3 per cent in Q3: 2021-22, with risks broadly balanced.

The MPC resolution noted that, with the larger than anticipated deflation in vegetable prices in December bringing down headline closer to the target, it was likely that the food inflation trajectory will shape the near-term outlook.

"The bumper kharif crop, rising prospects of a good rabi harvest, larger winter arrivals of key vegetables and softer egg and poultry demand on avian flu fears are factors auguring a benign inflation outcome in the months ahead. On the other hand, price pressures may persist in respect of pulses, edible oils, spices and non-alcoholic beverages. The outlook for core inflation is likely to be impacted by further easing in supply chains; however, broad-based escalation in cost-push pressures in services and manufacturing prices due to increase in industrial raw material prices could impart upward pressure.

"Furthermore, there could be increased pass-through to output prices as demand normalises as indicated in the Reserve Bank’s industrial outlook, services and infrastructure outlook surveys and purchasing managers’ indices (PMIs) and firms regain pricing power. International crude oil prices may remain supported by demand build up on optimism from vaccination and continuing production cuts by OPEC plus. The crude oil futures curve has become downward sloping since December 2020," it said.

The RBI also projected real GDP growth at 10.5 per cent in 2021-22 – in the range of 26.2 to 8.3 per cent in H1 and 6.0 per cent in Q3.

According to it, rural demand is likely to remain resilient on good prospects of agriculture. Urban demand and demand for contact-intensive services is expected to strengthen with the substantial fall in COVID-19 cases and the spread of vaccination.

"Consumer confidence is reviving and business expectations of manufacturing, services and infrastructure remain upbeat. The fiscal stimulus under AtmaNirbhar 2.0 and 3.0 schemes of government will likely accelerate public investment, although private investment remains sluggish amidst still low capacity utilisation. The Union Budget 2021-22, with its thrust on sectors such as health and well-being, infrastructure, innovation and research, among others, should help accelerate the growth momentum," it said.

The MPC noted that the sharp correction in food prices had improved the food price outlook, but some pressures persisted, and core inflation remained elevated.

"Pump prices of petrol and diesel have reached historical highs. An unwinding of taxes on petroleum products by both the centre and the states could ease the cost push pressures. What is needed at this point is to create conditions that result in a durable disinflation. This is contingent also on proactive supply side measures.

"Growth is recovering, and the outlook has improved significantly with the rollout of the vaccine programme in the country. The Union Budget 2021-22 has introduced several measures to provide an impetus to growth. The projected increase in capital expenditure augurs well for capacity creation thereby improving the prospects for growth and building credibility around the quality of expenditure. The recovery, however, is still to gather firm traction and hence continued policy support is crucial.

"Taking these developments into consideration, the MPC in its meeting today decided to continue with an accommodative stance of monetary policy till the prospects of a sustained recovery are well secured while closely monitoring the evolving outlook for inflation," the resolution said.

All members of the MPC – Dr. Shashanka Bhide; Dr. Ashima Goyal; Prof. Jayanth R. Varma; Dr. Mridul K. Saggar; Dr. Michael Debabrata Patra; and RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das – unanimously voted for keeping the policy repo rate unchanged at 4 per cent. Furthermore, all members of the MPC voted to continue with the accommodative stance as long as necessary – at least during the current financial year and into the next financial year – to revive growth on a durable basis and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, while ensuring that inflation remains within the target going forward.

The minutes of the MPC’s meeting will be published by February 22. The next meeting of the MPC is scheduled during April 5 to 7, the release added.

NNN

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