Managers' views

Why India’s central bank may have made a mistake

We don’t find the reasoning behind the Indian central bank’s decision to leave rates on hold particularly persuasive.


Craig Botham

Craig Botham

Emerging Markets Economist

To the disappointment of markets and against economist expectations, the Indian central bank kept rates on hold, with the policy repo rate at 6.5%.

We think that this will prove a mistake by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) given the backdrop of general emerging market currency weakness and rising oil prices.

Given the tone of previous meetings and the direction of the rupee and oil since the last policy meeting in August, a 25 bps hike had been widely expected. Evidently the RBI sees things differently, and highlighted the recent softness of food price inflation in its accompanying statement, along with a moderation of longer-term household inflation expectations.

However, as the RBI also noted, PMIs reported an increase in input costs with some evidence of pass-through to the consumer, and corporate expectations of inflation are increasing. Oil has risen around $13 since the August meeting and by even more in rupee terms given the roughly 8% depreciation against the dollar over the same period.

The RBI’s forecast inflation was revised lower, though still above target, while growth expectations were largely unchanged. The case for not hiking was not, to us, overly persuasive.

We wonder if the recent stress in the Indian financial system, with high profile defaults in the non-bank financial sector, may have contributed to the decision. The RBI may have been unwilling to acknowledge it as a motivating factor for fear of the impact on market sentiment.

The one nod to hawkishness was a change in stance, from neutral to “calibrated tightening”, which was not enough to calm currency markets. Unless it is saved by a reversal in oil price and US dollar strength, we think the RBI will be forced to hike at its December meeting.


Important Information
Any security(s) mentioned above is for illustrative purpose only, not a recommendation to invest or divest.
This document is intended to be for information purposes only and it is not intended as promotional material in any respect. The views and opinions contained herein are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily represent views expressed or reflected in other Schroders communications, strategies or funds. The material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for investment advice or recommendation. Opinions stated are matters of judgment, which may change. Information herein is believed to be reliable, but Schroder Investment Management (Hong Kong) Limited does not warrant its completeness or accuracy.
Investment involves risks. Past performance and any forecasts are not necessarily a guide to future or likely performance. You should remember that the value of investments can go down as well as up and is not guaranteed. Exchange rate changes may cause the value of the overseas investments to rise or fall. For risks associated with investment in securities in emerging and less developed markets, please refer to the relevant offering document.
The information contained in this document is provided for information purpose only and does not constitute any solicitation and offering of investment products. Potential investors should be aware that such investments involve market risk and should be regarded as long-term investments.
Derivatives carry a high degree of risk and should only be considered by sophisticated investors.
This material, including the website, has not been reviewed by the SFC. Issued by Schroder Investment Management (Hong Kong) Limited.