India cuts key interest rate by quarter point

Tuesday 29 January 2013 18.58
Reserve Bank of India cuts rates to 7.75%
Reserve Bank of India cuts rates to 7.75%

India's central bank cut its key interest rate by a quarter percentage point to 7.75% today, aiming to boost flagging growth in Asia's third-largest economy.

The Reserve Bank of India also lowered its cash reserve ratio for banks by a quarter point to 4%, which means commercial banks can lend more.

India's economic growth has slowed for several quarters amid high inflation and delays to economic reforms that chilled investment.

The central bank cut its economic growth forecast for the fiscal year ending March 2013 to 5.5% from 5.8%. It said the lower cash reserve ratio would release an extra 180 billion rupees ($3.3 billion) into the banking system.

The RBI has held off cutting rates at previous monetary policy meetings because of high inflation. Its last rate cut was in April 2012.

In its latest monetary policy review, the bank said headline inflation had peaked and with a decline in prices of non-food manufactured products, it was likely that inflation would stabilise at its current levels in the coming year. "This provides space, albeit limited, for monetary policy to give greater emphasis to growth risks," it said.

The bank said it expected the interest rate cut to encourage investment and support growth. Steps taken by the government including liberalisation of foreign investment in retail, aviation, broadcasting and insurance should help return the economy to a higher growth trajectory, the RBI said.

Analysts cautioned that with India scheduled to hold general elections in 2014, there was a likelihood of further government sops leading to increased inflation and spending blowouts.