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Monday, September 28, 2015

Will the likely interest rate cut by RBI be a non-event? – a guest post

Will he, or won’t he? That seems to be the question. Experts of different hues are expecting a 25 bps (0.25%) interest rate cut by the RBI Governor. That means, there will be no positive surprise for the stock market if the rate cut does come through.

There is also a possibility that the RBI Governor maintains status quo. That will be a negative surprise for the market and initiate a sell-off.

What if the rate cut is 50 bps or higher? The probability of that – based on Dr Rajan’s track record so far – is low. But it will be a definite positive surprise for the stock market.

In this month’s guest post, Nishit explains why the three tranches of interest rate cuts by Dr Rajan has failed to stimulate the Indian economy, and why he doesn’t expect the RBI Governor to be dovish in his announcement.

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Over the past few weeks, the impression given in the media is that an interest rate cut by RBI will stimulate the Indian economy. This is a wrong picture being portrayed. Tweaking interest rates is just one of the tools for stimulating the economy. More important are tax reforms and simplifying ease of doing business in India.

Implementation of GST will be the single biggest factor for growth of the Indian economy. Now, let us look at the interest rate cuts. Since, January the RBI has cut rates by 75 basis points (0.75%) in three tranches. The Banks have passed on barely 30 basis points (0.3%) to the end customer, citing high cost of deposits. The only exception has been HDFC Bank which has passed on 0.5-0.6% rate cut to the consumer.

What interest rate cuts do is lower the cost of deposits for Banks (has anyone noticed how quickly Banks are lowering fixed deposit rates?), but banks are not passing on the benefit of lower rates to people who borrow from Banks. This will only lead to Banks making more profits.

Also, if the RBI Governor cuts rates at a faster pace and tomorrow inflation rises how does he deal with it? In US the rates are near to 0 and they can stimulate the economy by ‘Quantitative Easing’, i.e. injecting huge sums of money into the economy by printing Bank notes. Is India in a similar position to do so?

Instead, by cutting rates slowly and allowing Banks to first transmit the rate cuts to its borrowers there are two advantages. The Governor gets more time to evaluate the inflation scenario and rate cuts get fully passed on to borrowers.

Hence the drama dutifully played up by television anchors is actually harmful in the long term. Simply cutting rates is  not the solution to all the problems in the economy. If it was that simple the World economy would not be where it is now and the US would not look at raising interest rates.

On Tuesday (Sep 29 ’15) I expect a maximum 25 basis points (0.25%) cut and I would not be surprised if there is no rate cut also.

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(Nishit Vadhavkar is a Quality Manager working at an IT MNC. Deciphering economics, equity markets and piercing the jargon to make it understandable to all is his passion. "We work hard for our money, our money should work even harder for us" is his motto.

Nishit blogs at Money Manthan. You can reach him at nish.stockid@gmail.com)

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