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RBI members say inflationary risks to remain in near term: MPC minutes

RBI minutes: MPC concerned over rising inflation

Reuters  |  Mumbai 

RBI, RBI minutes, inflation, RBI MPC, Reserve Bank of India
A woman walks past the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) head office in Mumbai | Photo: Reuters

Minutes from the Reserve Bank of India's meeting this month showed members expressing concerns about accelerating inflation, although that was also tempered by uncertainty about the strength of an economic recovery.

The MPC voted 5-1 at the meeting to keep the policy rate on hold at 6.0 per cent and to retain its "neutral" monetary policy stance. Executive Director was the sole member to vote for a 25 basis point hike.

The minutes released on Wednesday showed widespread concerns among the six MPC members about inflation, which accelerated to a 17-month high of 5.21 per cent in December from a year earlier, driven higher by food and energy.

Although data after the meeting showed easing to 5.07 per cent in January, that remains well above the central bank's 4 per cent target.

The MPC members expressed concern about continued inflationary risks, citing factors including high food and global crude prices and the government's decision to increase spending for the year starting in April to support a struggling agricultural sector.

But most also appeared mindful of wanting to see a stronger economic recovery, despite promising signs. The government has projected growth could accelerate to 7 to 7.5 per cent in 2018/19 after expanding at its slowest in three years. India will next report growth data on Feb. 28.

"Although risks have increased in recent months, incoming data should provide greater clarity about the persistence of inflationary pressures," Governor was quoted as saying.

"The economic recovery is also at a nascent stage and calls for a cautious approach at this juncture."

Nonetheless, worries the could soon move to raise rates are likely to persist. The benchmark 10-year bond yield has risen 127 basis points since the central bank last cut its repo rate by 25 bps on Aug. 2.

RBI's Patra, after voting for a hike, said would accelerate "well above" the central bank's target until the middle of the year.

"A series of rate increases may be warranted to remove excessive accommodation. The time to begin is upon us," he said.

Deputy Governor Viral Acharya, who looks after monetary policy, voted to keep rates on hold, calling an economic recovery "nascent and worthy of some support in the short run".

But he warned he would consider changing the RBI's stance should accelerate.

"Then a change in stance from 'neutral' to 'withdrawal of accommodation' might have to be considered," he said.

First Published: Wed, February 21 2018. 18:46 IST