India central bank makes fourth rate cut this year as growth slows

by AFP/ pic by BLOOMBERG

MUMBAI – India’s central bank on Wednesday cut interest rates for the fourth time this year, as New Delhi battles sluggish economic growth and high unemployment.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said the benchmark repo rate – the level at which it lends to commercial banks – would be reduced by 35 basis points to 5.40 percent, taking rates to their lowest level since 2010.

“The monetary policy committee was of the view that a 25 basis point rate cut was inadequate due to evolving global economic conditions while a 50 basis point cut would be excessive,” RBI governor Shaktikanta Das told reporters.

“Hence, 35 basis points was viewed as a balanced level of cut due to the current circumstances.”

All 36 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News had predicted the central bank would cut rates by 25 basis points.

A fall in domestic demand lowered India’s growth rate in the last quarter to 5.8 percent, with unemployment at its highest since the 1970s.

Indian carmakers including Mahindra & Mahindra have halted production and reported falling sales as consumer demand fell throughout 2019.

“Domestic economic activity continues to be weak, with the global slowdown and escalating trade tensions posing downside risks,” the central bank added in a statement.

The RBI revised down its growth projection for 2019-20 from 7.0 percent to 6.9 percent, noting that the global economy has been losing pace.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who won a second landslide victory in recent national elections, faces a massive challenge to create enough jobs for the 1.2 million Indians who join the labour market each month.