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India Keeps Policy Rates Unchanged Despite Slower Growth

rbi aug07 05dec19 lt

Despite the economic slowdown, India's central bank maintained its interest rates on Thursday, defying expectations for further reduction, as policymakers wait to see how previous monetary easing as well as stimulus measures taken by the government feed into the real economy.

The Monetary Policy Committee of the Reserve Bank of India, headed by Governor Shaktikanta Das, unanimously decided to leave the repo rate unchanged at 5.15 percent and the reverse repo at 4.90 percent.

The bank was widely expected to ease the policy rates by a quarter point at its fifth bi-monthly monetary policy meeting. The central bank has so far lowered its key rate five times this year by a cumulative 135 basis points.

There is monetary policy space for future action, the RBI said.

"However, given the evolving growth-inflation dynamics, the MPC felt it appropriate to take a pause at this juncture," the bank added.

Signaling future easing, the bank said it will continue with the accommodative stance as long as necessary to revive growth, while ensuring that inflation remains within the target.

The CPI inflation projection was revised upwards to 5.1-4.7 percent for the second half of the financial year 2019-20 and 4.0-3.8 percent for the first half of fiscal 2020-21.

The bank sharply lowered its real GDP growth outlook for 2019-20 to 5 percent from 6.1 percent, citing a delay in revival of domestic demand, a further slowdown in global economic activity and geo-political tensions as downside risks.

The Indian economy expanded at the slowest pace in more than six years in the September quarter. GDP advanced only 4.5 percent after a 5 percent expansion in three months to June, official data showed last week.

At the press conference, Das said there are some green shoots in the economy.

Darren Aw, an economist at Capital Economics, said the MPC has left the door open for further easing in the near term and a rate cut in February still looks likely. The economist expects the easing cycle to come to an end in February.

In the statement, the RBI said monetary transmission has been full and reasonably swift. Although credit market transmission remains delayed it is picking up, the bank added.

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