India’s benchmark inflation rose in May to 7.55 per cent, keeping price pressures elevated and making it harder for the central bank to revive economic growth with a widely expected interest rate cut next week.
The rise in the wholesale price index (WPI) from 7.23 per cent in April came as both food and fuel prices picked up. It matched expectations in a Reuters poll.
The increase keeps inflation near its highest level this year -March data was revised up to a 2012 high of 7.69 per cent -as policymakers come under pressure to revitalise an economy running at its lowest ebb in nine years and to steer the country away from a damaging ratings downgrade to junk status.
Still, traders said core inflation, which excludes volatile food and fuel prices, was around 5 per cent, giving the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) room to cut its policy rate at a meeting on Monday.
“Since core inflation is still below 5 per cent, I would expect RBI to cut rates by 25 basis points as that is the key number,” said A. Prasanna, an economist at ICICI Securities Primary Dealership in Mumbai. Economists calculate core inflation from the data.
India’s bond prices and stocks fell, while the rupee weakened after the data because it dashed earlier speculation that the headline figure would be below 7 per cent.
India’s repo rate of 8.00 per cent is the highest central bank policy rate among major economies in Asia. It cut the rate by 50 basis points in April as the growth outlook became more of a concern.
A political logjam in New Delhi and the euro zone debt crisis are weighing on Asia’s third-largest economy. Capital inflows have slowed and the current account deficit widened.
Growth slumped to a nine-year low of 5.3 per cent in the first quarter of calendar 2012 and data this week showed industrial output growth flatlined in April, triggering fresh calls for the government to restart an economic liberalisation programme stalled since 2004.
A benchmark index for Indian equities markets on Thursday plunged more than 200 points after data showed that the country’s inflation rose 7.55 per cent in May as against 7.23 per cent in the previous month, dampening hopes of a rate-cut by the Reserve Bank of India in its mid-quarter policy review June 18.
Amid volatile trade, the 30-scrip sensitive index (Sensex) of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), which opened at 16,857.23 points, closed at 16,677.88 points, down 1.20 per cent or 202.63 points from its previous close of 16,880.51 points.
The Sensex touched a high of 16,921.49 points intra-day and a low of 16,658.98. The midcap index of the BSE fell 76.35 points, while smallcap index closed 42.83 points down.