India Monetary Policy February 2023

India: As expected, the Reserve Bank of India hikes rates by 25 basis points in February

On 8 February, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) hiked the repo rate by 25 basis points to 6.50%, matching analysts’ expectations. It also hiked its standing deposit facility rate and marginal standing facility rate by 25 basis points each, to 6.25% and 6.75%, respectively. Four board members voted for the hike, and two voted against it.

In justifying the move, the RBI said that headline inflation was near the top of the 2.0–6.0% target, and that core inflation remained stubbornly high. The RBI said it expected inflation to stay above target until January–March 2023, pushing it to hike rates in order to preempt second-round effects and anchor inflation expectations. Meanwhile, a robust economic outlook—India is expected to post one of Asia’s fastest growth rates in 2023—gave the RBI the leeway to hike.

The Bank did not provide explicit forward guidance. However, it stated it would continue to “remain focused on the withdrawal of accommodation” to assure that inflation returns to target “going forward”, meaning that further hikes ahead are probable. The Bank asserted that risks to the inflation outlook appeared balanced; however, unexpected spikes or drops in inflation—due to a swing in commodity prices, for example—could prompt it to change course. A sharper-than-expected economic slowdown or rebound could also affect the speed of policy tightening.

The next monetary policy meeting is scheduled to take place on 3–5 April.

Analysts at ANZ commented on the outlook:

“We do not expect any further rate hikes in our baseline forecasts as we expect CPI inflation to see a discernible fall from Q2 2023 and downside risks to the RBI’s FY24 inflation projection. A change in stance to ‘neutral’ is likely in April, but not guaranteed. However, given the RBI’s readiness to act, the risk around our forecasts is to the upside, with a potential 25bp rate hike in April, if headline and core inflation do not ease according to projections.”

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