No respite for RBI as inflation to quicken in slowing India

MUMBAIIndia’s inflation is seen accelerating in the final reading on consumer prices before the central bank decides on interest rates next month, complicating matters for governor Urjit Patel amid increasing evidence that economic growth is weak.

Consumer prices probably rose 3.24% in August from a year earlier, according to the median of 36 estimates in a Bloomberg survey of economists before data due at 5:30pm in New Delhi today. That’s faster than the previous month’s 2.4% and near the upper end of the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) 2% to 3.5% projection for April to September.

Industrial production, also due today, is estimated to have grown 1.7% in July, better than June’s contraction yet well below the 10-year average of 4.9%.

The data comes at a time when India’s economic expansion has slumped to the lowest since 2014 as a November cash ban and new nationwide sales tax hamper activity. That may push Prime Minister Narendra Modi to boost spending, imperiling the budget deficit target, as well as compel the RBI to cut interest rates in the final-quarter of 2017, according to Citigroup Inc.

“Between a negative shock to growth from fiscal tightening and risks of fiscal slippage, we think that the government may consider the latter given an already fragile macro environment,” said Samiran Chakraborty, an economist at Citi. He lowered India’s growth estimate for the year through March 2018 to 7% from 7.5%.

Data on Thursday is expected to show wholesale price inflation accelerated to 3.2% in August from 1.9% the previous month, indicating pipeline pressures are building. However, low food and energy prices will keep India’s price pressures below the 4% mid-point of the RBI’s medium-term target, according to Moody’s Analytics.

The RBI is scheduled to announce its next rate decision on Oct 4. Swap traders aren’t pricing in a cut in 2017 but see a possible reduction over the next 12 months, according to markets tracked by HSBC Holdings plc. — Bloomberg