India’s retail inflation likely edged up in September, driven by higher salaries of government employees as well as the impact of a new national tax, a Reuters poll found, a development that would make further monetary policy easing unlikely. Consumer inflation is forecast to have risen to 3.60 percent in September from a year ago, above August’s 3.36 percent, the poll of 36 economists showed.
The data is due to be released on Oct. 12 at 1200 GMT. If the September number matches the poll consensus, inflation would be the highest in six months – yet still below the Reserve Bank of India’s mid-term target of 4 percent. A recent hike in house rent allowances for government employees, coupled with staggered price hikes by firms adjusting to the Goods and Services Tax (GST), contributed to price rises, said Sonal Varma, chief India economist at Nomura.
The new tax, introduced July 1, caused disruptions to business activity in the manufacturing and services sectors that were still recovering from the government’s move late last year to scrap high-value banknotes. Annual economic growth dropped to a three-year low of 5.7 percent in the April-June quarter, raising calls for further monetary policy easing by the central bank. However in a recent interview, RBI Governor Urjit Patel said although economic growth was a constant consideration for the central bank, it would not take precedence over its inflation target.
While leaving interest rates on hold at its October rate-setting meeting – the first after a cut in August – the central bank cut growth estimates and raised inflation projections for this fiscal year. A Reuters poll last month showed the RBI will hold borrowing costs steady well past next year amid weak economic growth and signs inflation may soon overshoot its target.
Wholesale prices are forecast to have risen 3.41 percent in September from a year ago versus 3.24 percent in August, the latest poll found. It also predicted industrial production rose 2.4 percent in August, up from July’s 1.2 percent growth. “These could be taken as early signs that the industrial sector is gradually coming out of the disruptive impact of demonetisation and (the) GST,” wrote Rupa Rege Nitsure at L&T Financial Services in a note to clients. “Going ahead, industrial production growth prints may not sustain at the same level.”