RBI Maintains Key Interest Rate at 6.50%, Focuses on Growth

  • June 7, 2024
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RBI Maintains Key Interest Rate at 6.50%, Focuses on Growth

Quick Look:

Unchanged Repo Rate: RBI kept the key interest rate at 6.50% for the eighth consecutive policy meeting.
Balanced Approach: Focus on ensuring economic growth while addressing inflation, targeting a 4% inflation rate.
Economic Forecasts: GDP growth forecast rose 7.2% for the year; inflation should average 4.5% by March 2025.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) maintained its key interest rate unchanged on Friday, a decision that market participants widely anticipated. The central bank focuses on ensuring robust economic growth while addressing inflation concerns. This balanced approach highlights the RBI’s strategy to navigate economic challenges while striving to meet its medium-term inflation target of 4%.

Steady Rates and Economic Outlook

The RBI’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), comprising three internal and three external members, decided to keep the repo rate at 6.50% for the eighth consecutive policy meeting. Governor Shaktikanta Das emphasized the need for inflation to align sustainably with the bank’s target. Also indicating that the current economic growth provides a buffer to manage inflationary pressures effectively.

While the economic growth forecast for the current year was revised upwards, the inflation outlook remained unchanged, albeit with a cautionary note on persistent food price pressures.

Divergent Views within the MPC

The decision to maintain the repo rate saw varied opinions within the MPC. Four of the six members voted to hold the rate steady, while two external members, JR Varma and Ashima Goyal, advocated for a 25 basis point cut. This divergence underscores the ongoing debate on the best approach to balancing growth and inflation.

India’s third-largest Asian economy exhibited stronger-than-expected growth in the January-March quarter. However, the recent national elections delivered a surprising outcome. Consequently, this caused market jitters.

The reduced mandate for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance has sparked concerns. In particular, there are apprehensions about the speed of fiscal consolidation and the possible rise in welfare spending.

Despite these political uncertainties, the RBI remains focused on domestic economic conditions rather than following global trends mindlessly. Governor Das highlighted this approach by stating that while global economic conditions are monitored, the RBI’s policies are tailored to local economic realities.

Economic Indicators and Market Reactions

Following the policy decision, India’s benchmark 10-year bond yield rose by 2 basis points to 7.02%, reflecting investor sentiment. The rupee remained relatively stable, indicating a cautious but steady outlook on the currency front.

The MPC raised its full-year GDP growth forecast to 7.2% from the previous 7%, reflecting optimism about the economic trajectory. Inflation is projected to average 4.5% for the fiscal year ending March 2025. This outlook suggests a stable economic environment with room for growth, driven by strong manufacturing activity, recovering consumption, and robust rural demand bolstered by improved farm activity.

Recent GDP data underscored this positive trend. The economy expanded at a faster-than-expected rate of 7.8% in the March quarter. It is leading to an impressive full-year growth of 8.2%. Despite this growth, retail inflation remains a concern, easing slightly to 4.83% in April from 4.85% in March, yet still above the MPC’s target.

Future Prospects and Policy Directions

The RBI’s decision to keep interest rates steady amidst robust economic growth signals a cautious yet optimistic outlook. The central bank’s focus on domestic economic conditions, rather than global cues, highlights its commitment to sustaining growth while managing inflation. As India’s economy continues to show resilience, the central bank’s policies will play a crucial role in navigating the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

The RBI’s balanced approach in maintaining the repo rate at 6.50% reflects its strategic focus on fostering economic growth while keeping inflation in check.

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