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Lower inflation ups bankers’ hopes for more rate cuts by RBI

Bankers on Thursday said the sharp fall in inflation to 3.78% for July has raised hopes of another rate cut by the Reserve Bank at the September review of the policy.


“Obviously, if more and more positive news on inflation front comes, it’s a reasonable expectation to expect that rates will be cut at the September policy,” HDFC Bank’s managing director Aditya Puri told reporters outside RBI here.

He said Governor Raghuram Rajan had earlier said that the RBI is “actively looking” at a rate cut.

State-run Bank of India’s chief executive and managing director B P Sharma said bankers have always been asking for a rate cut and the lower inflation reading only heightens their hopes.

“Everybody is hopeful and (if) it continues, we expect a rate cut,” he said.

It can be noted that after it turned confident on the inflation front early this year, the RBI cut its key rates by 0.75% in 2015.

Apart from further softening in inflation, the RBI said transmission of its policy rates into lending by banks, impact of the monsoons and the US Fed’s stance will be the key factors it will look out for.

On transmission, where the RBI says banks have passed only 0.30% in their lending rates as against its 0.75% in cuts, Puri conceded that more rate cuts are required.

Sharma said his bank has already cut its base rate to 9.95% and does not have more room to cut further at present, because the cost of deposits takes time to get repriced.

A base rate cut is possible only after the cost of deposits come down, he added.

Retail inflation fell to multi-year low of 3.78% in July on account of cheaper food prices, including of vegetables, fruits and cereals.

The retail inflation based on Consumer Price Index (CPI) was at 5.40% in June 2015. In July 2014, CPI based retail inflation was as high as 7.39%.

The RBI had already hinted at a lower inflation because of the base effect. It expects it to rise to over 5% mark towards the end of the year.

Puri and Sharma were speaking to reporters post a luncheon meet at the central bank after annual board meet.

Other bankers who were present included SBI’s chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya, ICICI Bank’s Chanda Kochhar, Shikha Sharma of Axis Bank and Uday Kotak.


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