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    RBI likely to maintain status quo on rates with an eye on the dollar, oil prices


    The Reserve Bank of India's rate-setting panel is expected to maintain the policy interest rates unchanged in its upcoming meeting, as it monitors inflation amid rising crude oil prices and potential rate hikes in the US. The Monetary Policy Committee is likely to keep the repo rate at 6.50% and maintain its stance of withdrawal of accommodation. The increase in global oil prices and the strengthening US dollar have increased inflation and current account deficit risks for India.

    RBI to maintain rates, real estate sector to be disappointedIANS
    The Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) rate-setting panel is likely to keep the policy interest rates unchanged later this week while continuing its protracted vigil on inflation, as the steepest increase in crude oil prices in 10 months amid signs of further rate hardening in the US lengthens the odds on an immediate turnabout in the rate trajectory at home.

    An ET poll of 12 market respondents showed that at the end of its October 4-6 meeting, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) is likely to keep the repo rate unchanged at 6.50% while retaining its stance of withdrawal of accommodation. Such an outcome would mark the fourth successive policy review in which the MPC has maintained a status quo on rates and stance.

    Focus on protecting external sector
    "The MPC is expected to extend its hawkish pause... global crude oil prices have surged to November 2022 highs, surpassing the RBI's April estimate of $85 per barrel, with September's average approximately 9% higher than that of August," Radhika Rao, senior economist, DBS Bank said.

    This has coincided with the dollar's climb as the Federal Reserve has sought to hold rates 'higher for longer', dimming the appeal of emerging market assets for global investors. Overseas funds turned net sellers in Indian equities for the first time this fiscal year in September even though the Nifty breached the 20,000 mark for the first time.

    "At the same time, the US dollar has appreciated sharply due to favourable interest rate and growth differentials, keeping the INR on a weakening path," Rao said.

    Higher oil prices pose upside risks to India's inflation and current account deficit while a depreciating rupee increases the threat of imported inflation. Such situations make a stronger case for the RBI to tilt toward tighter monetary conditions to help shield the external sector from volatility. India's consumer inflation was at 6.8% in August, down from 7.4% a month ago. The MPC's target for retail inflation is 4%, with a two-percentage-point tolerance threshold in either direction.


    Liquidity tap

    While analysts expect no action on rates, they believe the treatment of liquidity conditions in the banking system - a matter that falls outside the purview of the MPC - could become more important in the prevailing scenario. For the past couple of months, the central bank has harnessed liquidity management as an operational tool to guide money market rates in the face of inflationary pressures. In August, when India's inflation had shot up due to surging vegetable prices, the RBI announced an Incremental Cash Reserve Ratio (I-CRR) to reduce excess liquidity with banks, particularly in the aftermath of the recall of Rs 2,000 banknotes.

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