India’s Nov retail inflation jumps to 40-month high

Reuters . New Delhi | Published: 00:00, Dec 13,2019


A vendor sells vegetables at a retail market in Kolkata, India, December 12, 2018. — Reuters photo

India’s retail price inflation in November jumped to a 40-month high on higher food prices, reducing the likelihood of the central bank cutting interest rates in the next policy meeting in February.

Food inflation rose sharply as unusually heavy rains at the end of the monsoon season hit crop yields and caused a spurt in prices of vegetables such as onions.

This is the second month in a row when the retail inflation has remained above the central bank’s medium-term target of 4 per cent.

Annual retail inflation increased to 5.54 per cent last month, faster than the 4.62 per cent rate in October and ahead of 5.26 per cent forecast in a Reuters poll of analysts.

Increasing inflation and the growth rate slipping to a more than six year low of 4.5 per cent in the JulySeptember period could make policy makers and the Reserve Bank of India walk a tight rope in the coming months.

Already concerns on the inflation front prevented the Reserve Bank of India from cutting its key lending rate for the sixth straight time earlier this month, despite slashing its growth rate forecast for 2019-20 to 5 per cent, which would be the lowest since the 2008 financial crisis.

Economists said that the central bank would continue to hold the rates.

‘With the likely bottoming of growth and elevated inflation as well as concerns on large fiscal slippages, the policy rate (by RBI) may remain in hold in FY20,’ said Sujan Hajra, chief economist at Anand Rathi Securities

Retail food prices, which make up nearly half of India’s inflation basket, increased 10.01 per cent in November from a year earlier, against 7.89 per cent in October.

Four analysts said November core inflation, which strips off food and fuel prices to reflect the demand in the economy, remained flat at 3.40 per cent-3.6 per cent against 3.44 per cent-3.60 per cent in October.

Weak demand is reflected in the power, fuel, real estate and sales of vehicles, which have resulted in hundreds of thousands of job losses in some industries.

Economists expect the government to loosen its fiscal deficit target to further provide stimulus for the economy by cutting tax rates for individuals, having already cut corporate tax rates to increase investment in the economy.

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