The RBI lifted its policy repo rate by 25 basis points (bps) to 7.75 percent, in line with the expectations of most analysts in a recent Reuters poll, despite the risks to an economy beset by sluggish growth.
“Overall WPI (wholesale price index) inflation is expected to remain higher than current levels through most of the remaining part of the year, warranting an appropriate policy response,” RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan said in his review.
With the rupee having stabilised, the RBI lowered its Marginal Standing Facility (MSF) rate a further 25 bps to 8.75 percent, which eases liquidity in the banking system and returns the gap between the repo and MSF rates to the usual 100 basis points.
Rajan, a high-profile former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, took office in early September and stunned markets in his first policy review just weeks later by raising interest rates to combat fierce price pressures dogging Asia’s third-largest economy.
Annual food inflation accelerated to 18.4 percent in September, its highest since mid-2010, pushed up by prices of vegetables including onions and stirring public discontent ahead of national elections which must be held by next May.
India’s economy grew at 4.4 percent in the June quarter, the slowest since early 2009. The 5 percent growth rate recorded in the last fiscal year through March was the weakest in a decade.
The RBI said it expects the economy to grow at 5 percent in the current fiscal year that ends in March.
The headline wholesale price index (WPI) unexpectedly hit a seven-month high in September of 6.46 percent as food prices surged, while the consumer price index jumped an annual 9.84 percent, spurring expectations for another rate hike.