Indian industrial output in January grew at its fastest pace in 7 months, powered by a surge in manufacturing including consumer non-durables, a sign of strength in a sluggish economy that reinforces expectations the central bank will wait until April before cutting interest rates.
Production at India’s factories, mines and utilities grew by a surprise 6.8 per cent from a year earlier, the notoriously volatile data showed, the highest since June 2011.
Economists on average had expected growth of 2.1 per cent, a poll showed. The January figure compares with a revised annual rise of 2.5 per cent in December.
“The central bank is certainly going to wait for the budget and the government’s borrowing programme for the next year and what is going to be the (fiscal) deficit number. That is why we believe the rate decision will happen in April,” said Ashok Gautam, global head of markets at Axis Bank in Mumbai.
The Reserve Bank of India holds a monetary policy review on Thursday. On Friday night, it surprised markets with a 75 basis point cut in the cash reserve ratio for banks.
Many in the market expect it to wait until after the federal budget, to be delivered on Friday, before it starts cutting interest rates after raising them 13 times through October. The RBI has another policy review set for April 17. Production of consumer non-durable goods, including beverages and food product, jumped an annual 42.1 per cent, up from 14 per cent a month earlier.
Capital goods production, a proxy for investment, shrank for the fifth straight month, contracting 1.5 per cent from a year earlier.
“Industrial activity has surprised largely on account of consumer non-durable goods, which suggests that recovery is not broadbased. Subdued capital goods output continues to increase the call for expediting measures to boost investment activity,” said Upasna Bhardwaj, economist at ING Vysya in Mumbai.
Manufacturing output, which constitutes about 76 per cent to industrial output, grew 8.5 per cent in January.
Mining production shrank 2.7 per cent from a year earlier, its sixth straight contraction, reflecting the regulatory and environmental approval issues plaguing the sector.