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RBI monetary policy review: Bankers unsure on direction of interest rate moves

Raghuram Rajan-led Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has left bankers thoroughly confused.

Written by Press Trust Of India | Mumbai | Published: October 29, 2013 7:46:22 pm

Bankers remained ambivalent on the impact of today’s monetary policy review (repo rate hiked 0.25 pct) announcement by Raghuram Rajan-led Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on the cost of funds and refrained from giving a guidance on the direction in which lending rates are headed.

“I think there are a lot of moving parts here,so I think one should wait for some time and then see what exactly are the effects on the cost of funds and then only take a call,” Chanda Kochhar,MD & CEO of the country’s largest private sector lender ICICI Bank,told reporters here.

Elaborating on the difficulties,she said Governor Raghuram Rajan has put in measures like enhancement in the longer tenor repo borrowing limits and reducing the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate (which decrease the cost of funds),but also increased the repo rate.

There are other factors like seasonal liquidity constraints due to a pick up in credit demand,she said.

“Yes,some rate changes will be expected,” said Arundhati Bhattacharya,who took over as chairperson of the country’s largest lender State Bank of India,but she also declined to give a direction in which the changes will pan out.

She said that asset liability committee of every independent bank will look into the matter.

HDFC Bank’s head Aditya Puri said: “Cost of funds over the last three months have gone up. We are going back to a normalised monetary policy and over a period of time,it would come down.”

Punjab National Bank CMD K R Kamath,who also heads the industry body Indian Banks Association,pointed towards the policy comment on making deposits attractive by increasing the rates of interest.

“It is also a feeling that the returns we are giving to the depositors are negative if you factor average inflation impact. Unless you make your deposits attractive,the money may not come to the banking system…banks should work on getting deposits,” he said.

Kamath,however,added that this should not be seen as any hint of upping the deposit rates.

Puri said if the deposit rates were to go up,the lending rates will also follow suit.

In his maiden full policy announcement,Raghuram Rajan increased the repo rate by 0.25 per cent,but cut the marginal standing facility,which is the penal rate for exceeding their overnight borrowing limits,by an equal measure. He also doubled the bank’s borrowing limit under longer tenor repo.

The announcement,especially the second consecutive action on the repo front in as many months,led to fears of a spike in the already high lending rates.

It can be noted that the country’s quarterly growth slipped to a four year low of 4.4 per cent in the April-June period. The high interest rates is blamed as one of the detrimental factors affecting rates.

Puri said the system is gradually moving towards making the repo as the operative rate,but we are not there yet and for now,the MSF continues to be the operative rate.

Meanwhile,on the RBI’s suggestion of charging customers per transaction for the SMS alerts,Bhattacharya said making such distinctions is very difficult.

On the move to introduce the retail inflation linked bonds by December,state-run UCO Bank’s Chairman and Managing Director Arun Kaul was sceptical over the efficacy of the product and pointed towards the past experiences when such products have not seen great response.

Kamath said during their customary meeting with the Governor,other aspects like challenges on the Balance of Payment front,issues over asset quality,electronic payments and differentiated licensing for banks.

Bhattacharya said SBI has already received a request from the RBI for sharing the details of loan defaulters for the centralised repository and the exact workings of the arrangement are being seen at present.

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