India's August Consumer Prices Surged Higher Than Expected

(Bloomberg) -- India’s August inflation rate accelerated to the fastest since March, exceeding expectations ahead of the central bank’s policy review in October.

Key Points

  • Consumer price inflation quickened to 3.36 percent in August, the Statistics Ministry said in a statement in New Delhi on Tuesday
  • That’s faster than the 3.24 percent median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 44 economists and higher than 2.36 percent in July
  • Food prices rose 1.52 percent compared with a drop of 0.36 percent in the previous month

Big Picture

The second consecutive month of price surge is closer to the upper limit of the Reserve Bank of India’s inflation expectation at between 2 to 3.5 percent till September this year. Food prices may surge in the coming months after floods devastated farms in central and eastern India. Rising inflation could add to the pressure on central bank Governor Urjit Patel ahead of a policy review next month. It comes as India struggles with slack at factories and slow private investments worsened supply chain disruptions after a cash ban last November and chaos from a nationwide goods and service tax.

Economist Takeaway

"The August numbers signify a supply shock caused not just by floods-related disruptions but also because of an inherent slowdown as indicated by July factory numbers," said Rupa Rege Nitsure, chief economist at L&T Finance Holdings Ltd. "This isn’t a signal to RBI to raise rates. Instead it’s a clear signal that the slowdown has become more acute."

The fiscal outlook is also a growing cause for concern, said Shilan Shah, India economist at Capital Economics, Singapore, forecasting a widening fiscal deficit in the coming years. "In particular, the loan waivers for farmers announced by various state governments in recent months, most recently in Karnataka and Punjab, are likely to put their fiscal positions under more pressure."

India's August Consumer Prices Surged Higher Than Expected

The Details

  • Food and beverage prices rose 1.96 percent
  • Clothing and footwear rose 4.58 percent
  • Fuel and lighting rose 4.94 percent
  • Housing costs rose 5.58 percent
  • Industrial production grew at 1.2 percent in July, better than June’s contraction yet well below the 10-year average of 4.9 percent.