July 11, 2017 / 6:08 AM / in 4 months

India inflation to cool in June to record-low, could prompt rate cut: Reuters poll

REUTERS - India’s consumer inflation is expected to have slowed to a record-low in June, pressured by a sharp drop in food and oil prices, a Reuters poll showed, a result that could intensify calls for an interest rate cut.

Shoppers walk past stores at a mall in Mumbai, India, July 10, 2017. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Consumer price inflation is predicted to cool to 1.70 percent in June, easing further from May’s 2.18 percent, according to the poll of more than 30 economists taken over the past week.

If realised, it would be the lowest level since the series began in 2012 and below the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) medium-term target of 4.0 percent for an eighth successive month. Core inflation, however, has remained stubbornly above 4 percent since at least 2015.

Forecasts for the headline figure ranged from 1.20 percent to 2.70 percent. The data will be released on July 12 at 1200 GMT.

“Inflation is expected to take a downturn on account of deflationary pressures witnessed in vegetables and pulses amid slowdown in fuel prices,” said Himanshu Varshney, research analyst at AK Capital.

Food and beverage price index, which accounts for nearly half the consumer price index basket, is forecast to contract 1.05 percent in May, a significant turn from a peak in July last year when it rose 8.35 percent.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said last week that the nation’s cumulative rainfall between June 1 and July 2 was 6 percent above the long-run average.

Monsoon showers, which deliver about 70 percent of India’s annual rainfall, help drive higher food and grain production, keeping inflation in check.

Vendors wait for customers at vegetable stalls at a wholesale fruit and vegetable market in Mumbai, India, June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/Files

The RBI kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged in June while softening its hawkish stance following a drop in retail inflation, as predicted in a Reuters poll.

The central bank also lowered its headline inflation forecasts to a range of 2.0-3.5 percent for the first half of fiscal year 2017/18 and 3.5-4.5 percent in the second half, down from 4.5 percent and 5.0 percent, respectively.

“It would be foolhardy to totally rule out a rate cut given that inflation is likely to be close to or below the lower bound of the RBI’s target range,” said Shilan Shah, economist at Capital Economics.

Looking ahead, the RBI is watching out for the inflationary impact of the goods and services tax (GST), which came into force on July 1, though food products were exempt from taxes under the new system.

Wholesale price inflation is expected to have slowed last month to 1.60 percent from 2.17 percent in May, which would be the lowest since May last year.

Separately, industrial output is expected to have risen 1.9 percent in May after growing 3.1 percent in April due to weaker performances in manufacturing, mining and power generation.

The Nikkei India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index, compiled by IHS Markit eased to a four-month low of 50.9 in June on weak demand.

A poor factory output number on Wednesday could further bolster the case for an RBI rate cut next month to boost Asia’s third-largest economy, which grew 6.1 percent in the January-March quarter, its weakest pace in more than two years.

Additional reporting by Indradip Ghosh, Polling by Shaloo Shrivastava and Khushboo Mittal

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