A vendor arranges different types of vegetables at a stall in a vegetable market in Mumbai, India (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

India’s Inflation Quickens as Focus Shifts to April Rate Cut

(Bloomberg) -- India’s inflation rebounded in February, but was still benign enough to support calls for the central bank to lower interest rates at next month’s monetary policy meeting.

Consumer prices rose 2.57 percent last month from a year earlier, the Statistics Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. That compares with the 2.4 percent median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 34 economists.

India’s Inflation Quickens as Focus Shifts to April Rate Cut

Key Insights

  • Inflation has slowed sharply since last year because of a fall in food prices, and remains well below the Reserve Bank of India’s 4 percent medium-term target. The central bank is forecasting inflation of 2.8 percent in the January-March quarter
  • This is the last inflation print before the April 4 interest-rate decision and ahead of general elections that kick off next month. Calls are growing for the RBI to lower interest rates again after it surprised with a 25 basis-point reduction in February
  • Governor Shaktikanta Das has expressed concerns about weakening economic growth. Indian lenders haven’t fully passed on the last interest rate cut to borrowers, adding pressure on the RBI to loosen policy further
  • While softer inflation bolsters Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his re-election bid, subdued food prices also mean distress for farmers, a key voting bloc

What Economist Says

  • Ria Modh, an analyst with Stci Primary Dealer Ltd. in Mumbai, said calls for a rate cut in April will still be strong because of a revision in January inflation number to 1.97 percent, which is way below RBI’s target range. “If they need an investment demand, RBI needs to create an atmosphere where investment is boosted.”

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  • Consumer food prices fell 0.66 percent
  • Fuel and light prices rose 1.24 percent
  • Housing prices rose 5.10 percent
  • Clothing and footwear prices rose 2.73 percent
  • India’s factory output rose 1.7 percent in January, slower than the 2.4 percent gain in the previous month, data released separately showed
  • India is due to release wholesale price inflation numbers Thursday

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.