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RBI Monetary Policy Review: Central bank keeps key interest rate unchanged at 6% with neutral stance

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Mumbai, Feb 7: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) kept its key interest rate unchanged at 6 percent for the fourth time in succession at its final bi-monthly monetary policy review of the fiscal,  in view of an inflationary push by rising global crude oil prices.

Announcing the first monetary policy review after the Union Budget 2018-19 presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley last week, the RBI stated its decision to keep its repo, or short-term lending rate for commercial banks, unchanged is consistent with the neutral stance of the central bank aimed at achieving its median inflation target of 4 percent.

“Consequently, the reverse repo rate remains at 5.75 percent, and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate at 6.25 percent,” an RBI statement asserted after the meeting of the six-member Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).

After the release of the statement, while addressing media RBI Governor Urjit Patel said “We expect headline inflation to be at 5.1 percent in the fourth quarter (January-March), including the impact of HRA (house rent allowance) to central employees, up from the 4.6 percent in Q3”.

The continuing hike in food and fuel prices pushed India’s annual retail inflation rate over the five percent mark in December 2017 to 5.21 percent, from 4.88 percent in November 2017.

Elaborating on the upside risks to inflation, the RBI enlisted the various factors.

First, international crude oil prices have firmed up sharply since August 2017, while non-oil industrial raw material prices have also witnessed a global uptick,” the MPC statement said.

Second, the staggered impact of HRA increases by various state governments may push up
headline inflation further in 2018-19, and potentially induce second-round effects.

Third, the Union Budget 2018-19 has proposed revised guidelines for arriving at the minimum support prices (MSPs) for kharif crops Fourth, the Budget has also proposed an increase in customs duty on a number of items.”

Fourth, fiscal slippage as indicated in the Budget could impinge on the inflation outlook. Sixth, the confluence of domestic fiscal developments and normalisation of monetary policy by major advanced economies could further adversely impact financing conditions and undermine the confidence of external investors,” it added.

Five members of the MPC, including the three external ones and the Governor, voted in favour of the decision, while Executive Director Michael Patra voted for a hike in the policy rate by 25 basis points.

Noting the need for “vigilance” on inflation, the central bank also cut its earlier Gross Value Added (GVA), which excludes taxes but includes subsidies, the growth forecast for the current fiscal to 6.6 percent, from 6.7 percent.

RBI governor welcomed Budget 2018-19’s focus on the rural and infrastructure sectors as it would back rural incomes and investment, and in turn provide a further push to aggregate demand.

“On the downside, the deterioration in public finances risks crowding out of private financing and investment. The Committee is of the view that the nascent recovery needs to be carefully nurtured and growth put on a sustainably higher path through conducive and stable macro-financial management,” the apex bank stated.

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2nd wave: Fears of slower global recovery, US polls to weaken rupee

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Wall Stree USA

New Delhi, Oct 31 : Fears of a slower global recovery due to rising cases of Covid-19 infections in Europe and the US will cast pressure on the Indian rupee next week.

Additionally, the rupee is expected to get weaker on account of uncertainties prevailing on the back of upcoming US Presidential Election which will be held on November 3.

“The continuation of the pandemic in absence of a vaccine is creating havoc and is playing out in the Fx market. The fear that economic conditions are going to get worse before they get better, is keeping the dollar strong against EM currencies,” said Rahul Gupta, Head of Research-Currency at Emkay Global Financial Services.

“Adding to this mood is the uncertainty of the US presidential election outcome. So, next week the chances of USDINR trading above 74 are higher and expect the spot pair to trade within 73.50-74.50.”

The Indian rupee closed last week at 74.11, its weakest level in two months.

“Next week, US elections will take centrestage. Democratic candidate, Joe Biden is projected to win the race comfortably based on the current polls and leads. Also based on the current polls there is a likelihood the democrats could win both the House and Senate. This will be huge blue sweep for the and that will drive policy changes,” said Devarsh Vakil — Deputy Head of Retail Research at HDFC Securities.

“Their stated economic positions suggest that dollar could weaken in the medium term, which could drive commodities and emerging market equities higher.”

Besides, major economic data points such as automobile sales figures for October and ‘Purchasing Manager Index’ will further guide the currency’s movement.

The foreign fund inflows into the country’s equity markets are greatly influenced by these macro data that show the health of the economy.

Consequently, the flow status of foreign funds also impacts the rupee’s movement.

According to Sajal Gupta, Head, Forex and Rates, Edelweiss Securities: “Just before US elections rupee and equity became wobbly and some people may have booked profits before the event. Rupee has weakend to 74.50 levels. It has traded comfortably above the 74 handle.”

“Expect the rupee to be volatile and trade in wider range of 74 to 75.20 with some more depreciation risk.”

(Rohit Vaid can be contacted at [email protected])

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India extends $1 billion credit line to Central Asian countries for priority projects

Besides the $1-billion line of credit, India offered grant assistance for high impact community development projects to boost socio-economic development in Central Asia.

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India on Wednesday extended a $1-billion line of credit to Central Asian countries for priority projects in connectivity, energy, IT and health care, with the move being perceived as part of New Delhi’s efforts to boost its role as a transparent development partner.

The line of credit was welcomed by ministers of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyz Republic, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan during the second meeting of the India-Central Asia Dialogue held via video conference under the chairmanship of external affairs minister S Jaishankar. Acting Afghan foreign minister Haneef Atmar joined the meeting as a special invitee.

The meeting discussed cooperation in political and security matters, and all the countries called for settling the Afghan conflict on the principle of an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled peace process”, according to a joint statement. The countries also condemned terrorism and reaffirmed their determination to destroy terrorist safe havens, networks, and funding channels.

In a tacit reference to Pakistan, the joint statement said: “They also underlined the need for every country to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks against other countries.”

Jaishankar told the meeting: “India and Central Asia share ancient historical and cultural linkages. We consider Central Asia as India’s ‘extended neighbourhood’.” He added, “We face common challenges of terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking… All these commonalities make us a natural partner in our developmental journey.”

Besides the $1-billion line of credit, India offered grant assistance for high impact community development projects to boost socio-economic development in Central Asia.

The ministers emphasised the importance of connectivity in increasing trade and commerce between India and Central Asia, and appreciated New Delhi’s efforts to modernise Chabahar port in Iran as an important link in trade and transport between markets in Central and South Asia, the joint statement said. The ministers agreed to promote joint initiatives to create regional and international transport corridors.

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Failing to pay property tax by Oct 31 may land Gurugram property owners in trouble

Charitable educational institutions, charitable hospitals and special schools for children, which charge the same fees as government schools and hospitals, are given a 100 per cent exemption.

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Gurugram: Property owners in Gurugram can lose their water and sewage connections if they fail to clear their property tax dues by October 31, officials of the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) said on Wednesday.

According to the MCG officials, as per the notification issued by the Haryana government, only three days are left to avail the benefit of exemption in the payment of property tax issued by the MCG.

According to the notification, the government is giving an interest waiver and 25 per cent rebate to those paying their entire property tax dues by October 31.

“We have given a last opportunity to the property owners to pay their dues within the next three days. If they still do not pay their property tax, the process of cutting their sewer and drinking water connections will be initiated by the civic authority from November 1,” MCG Commissioner Vinay Pratap Singh said.

“A special drive to seal commercial buildings will be carried out and the process of auction can also be adopted by sealing the building,” he added.

As per the government notification, property owners who deposit their entire outstanding property tax by October 31 will be given a 25 per cent exemption on property tax from 2010-11 to 2016-17.

“Property owners who have deposited their property tax in the last three years till October 31, will be given an additional 10 per cent rebate along with the regular 10 per cent rebate. Those paying by auto debit mode will get the benefit of an additional 5 per cent discount,” an MCG official said.

Charitable educational institutions, charitable hospitals and special schools for children, which charge the same fees as government schools and hospitals, are given a 100 per cent exemption.

The officials further informed that the civic body has also started an incentive scheme for all the resident welfare associations (RWAs) of the city. Municipal corporations will give an incentive amount of Rs 5 lakh to the RWAs which submit property tax of more than 80 per cent.

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