India’s central bank said a “bleak” global outlook warranted its fourth rate hike in five months yesterday, as Asia’s third-largest economy struggles under the weight of chronically high inflation and a falling currency.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) raised its key lending rate by 50 basis points to 5.90%, marking a total increase of nearly two percentage points since it kicked off a monetary tightening cycle in May.
The country bounced back strongly from the coronavirus pandemic but is now grappling with the same headwinds buffeting the global economy.
“The global economic outlook continues to be bleak,” RBI governor Shaktikanta Das said in a televised address.
Aggressive rate hikes and ominous commentary from other leading central banks was posing a “third major shock” to the world economy on the back of the pandemic and the Ukraine war, he added.
“Recent rate hikes and forward guidance about further big rate hikes have caused tightening of financial conditions, extreme volatility and risk aversion,” Das said. The rise matched market expectations and the RBI was unlikely to pursue a monetary tightening that was “too restrictive”, Emkay Global Financial Services lead economist Madhavi Arora said in a note.
“However, the extent of global disruption will remain key to the RBI’s reaction ahead,” she added.
Consumer inflation has consistently overshot the central bank’s 2.0-6.0% target range this year.
Most recent data showed inflation rose to 7% in August, driven largely by food prices.
The RBI retained its inflation forecast for 2022-23 at 6.7%, projecting a fall to 5% in the June quarter.
Its economic growth forecast for the current 2022-23 financial year was revised down to 7%, from the 7.2% predicted earlier.
Rising global energy prices blew out India’s current account deficit to $23.9bn in the June quarter, nearly double the figure from the first three months of the year and the highest since 2013.
India imports more than 80% of its crude oil needs and rising petrol costs have driven spikes in consumer prices for the country’s 1.4bn people.