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MUMBAI (Reuters) - India's annual consumer price inflation accelerated to 3.81 percent in March from 3.65 percent in February, government data showed on Wednesday.
However, that was below the 3.98 percent predicted by economists polled by Reuters.
"The CPI reading is a positive surprise, largely driven by lower than expected inflation for food and beverages. Food inflation has remained steady for the past three months, brushing off concerns regarding the unwinding of the base effect and seasonal upturn in prices of perishables.
"The trajectory that the RBI has indicated build in an upturn in inflation from H1 to H2, which suggests a prolonged pause.
"A few factors that would remain a concern are monsoon dynamics and the GST, the impact of which won't be clear at least until a few months down the line.
"At this point in time, I would say that the odds of whether the next rate action is a hike or a cut are fairly evenly balanced."
DEVENDRA KUMAR PANT, CHIEF ECONOMIST, INDIA RATINGS, NEW DELHI
"It (inflation) is going to remain in this range and chances of it going up from here are there.
"Going forward, because the government is likely to clear allowances under the central pay commission, there will be an impact on housing inflation. Also, as winter goes away the favourable impact we were seeing on vegetable and food prices will also wane out.
"So the chances are during the year it (inflation) is likely to move between 4 and 5 percent.
"Chances are that there will be a prolonged pause on the rate front."
"Overall inflation data is largely in line with expectations and a marginal increase in fuel inflation is surprising. An RBI rate hike this year seems very unlikely as the March inflation data is slightly lower than the central bank's estimate."
SAMRAT DASGUPTA, CEO, ESQUIRE CAPITAL INVESTMENT ADVISORS, MUMBAI
"If you look at the IIP (industrial output) data, capital goods and manufacturing segments, they have not hit the mark, and hence I don't expect the central bank to raise rates.
"I don't think that the RBI's policy will be governed by the impact of demonetization any further as the focus will now shift to policies coming out of the U.S., while back home, monsoons will play a significant role."
"They (RBI) are aiming to get (consumer inflation) down to 4 percent, and from that point of view, a rate cut is not advisable. Therefore, it'll be a prolonged hold (for the repo rate).
"A rate hike can happen if all the factors that RBI highlighted in the last monetary policy - a GST impact, impact of the 7th pay commission, monsoon - are not good.
"If everything becomes worse together then towards the end of the financial year 2018 there is a slight risk (of a rate hike)."
Reporting by Abhirup Roy, Arnab Paul, and Samanthan Kareen Nair; Compiled by Rafael Nam