09 Feb 2021
The policy review by the Monetary Policy Committee of the Reserve Bank of India held between Feb 3-5, 2021 resulted in the maintenance of status quo on Repo Rate (at 4.00%), Reverse Repo Rate (at 3.35%), and Marginal Standing Facility Rate (at 4.25%). 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”. Both decisions of the MPC were backed by complete majority.
The policy rates and stance have remained unchanged since May-20.
Table 1: Voting on rate and stance by MPC members in Feb-21 policy review
Despite a loss of momentum in global economic recovery towards the end of 2020 on account of a surge in COVID infections in many countries, the MPC took comfort from multiple shades of recovery in domestic growth momentum.
RBI accordingly, has projected FY22 GDP growth at 10.5% vis-à-vis the anticipated contraction of 7.7% in FY21. This is broadly in line with our FY22 GDP growth forecast of 11.0%.
On the inflation front, the MPC took comfort from the recent food led reduction in CPI inflation as well as some moderation in 3-month forward household inflation expectations. While the RBI expects food inflation to remain benign in the near-term on account of improvement in healthy kharif and rabi produce, core inflation is vulnerable to cost-push pressures from global commodity prices, especially crude oil and industrial raw materials. The RBI projected CPI inflation at:
The forecast on CPI inflation also appears to be broadly in sync with our estimate of 5.0% average inflation in FY22 albeit with the aforesaid upside risks, down from an estimated average of 6.0% in FY21.
The central bank announced three key measures on the liquidity front:
Regulatory and Supervision Measures
The central bank announced a set of twelve measures on easing of regulatory/ supervision structure. We believe that three of them are critical:
The outcome of the Feb-21 policy review by the MPC along with the developmental measures announced by the RBI makes us believe that the central bank is likely to hold interest rates and accommodative policy stance at least through H1 FY22. However, the central bank continues to signal its mild discomfort with the extent of liquidity surplus (at Rs 6.63 Lakh Cr as of Feb 4, 2021) and hence the need for calibration through a mix of tools (variable rate reverse repo auctions and CRR restoration for the time being). Going forward, while the RBI would be replacing some of the absorbed liquidity through open market operations (gilt purchases) to anchor long term yields, it could also extend the liquidity toolkit (SDF, MSS, etc.) for calibrated absorption at the same time.
Going forward, the liquidity calibration is expected to lead to normalization in monetary policy amidst the expectation of a strong V-shaped recovery coupled with the above target inflation. At this juncture, we continue to expect the MPC to hike repo rate by 25 bps in Feb-22.