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Deposit, lending rates to remain unchanged, say bankers

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Banks will observe status quo on deposit and lending rates as the Reserve Bank of India has left its policy rates unchanged.

The RBI, in its mid-quarter monetary policy review, has reasoned that while growth in 2011-12 has moderated significantly, headline inflation remains above levels consistent with sustainable growth. Hence, the policy rates are unchanged.

The bankers did not deny that they did expect at least a 25 basis point cut, while hailing the apex bank for not yielding to the undue pressures from the media and the market.

Some of the top bankers that Business Line spoke to said there is no case for downward revision in the interest rates on deposits and advances. According to Mr M. D. Mallya, Chairman and Managing Director, Bank of Baroda, inflation continues to be high even as growth has slowed. Under the circumstances, the RBI has struck a fine balance to address both these concerns by keeping policy rates unchanged and providing banks liquidity enhancement in the form of export credit refinance. Since Bank of Baroda had cut both deposit and lending rates in April, the bank will now adopt a wait-and-watch approach.

“What the RBI has done is understandable given that inflation is at elevated levels. Economic policymaking is the outcome of both fiscal policy and monetary policy moving in sync…..As the RBI has kept its policy rates on hold there is no case for any revision in deposit and lending rates,” said Mr S. Raman, Chairman and Managing Director, Canara Bank.

Bit of a surprise

The Managing Director of Karnataka Bank Ltd, Mr P. Jayarama Bhat, said that RBI's decision to keep repo rate and CRR intact was a bit of surprise to the market. ‘It seems that RBI has taken taming inflation as primary task by keeping the policy rate and CRR intact'.

“The RBI is taking a cautious step with both domestic and international events to follow,” Mr Bhat added.

The Chief Executive of South Indian Bank Dr V. A. Joseph, said: “The RBI has not yielded to the pressures; it has instead maintained the rates at the current level based on indicators reflecting inflation. While a cut in the rate was expected to push growth, the decision to leave the rates unchanged signalled that the RBI was taking a cautious step to keep inflationary pressures under control.”

Dr N. Kamakodi, Managing Director, City Union Bank, said the macroeconomic indicators — slower GDP growth in successive quarters and slowdown in industrial activity — suggested the need for a reduction in the interest rate to maintain growth momentum, if not spur the growth. “However, disturbing trends emanating from other areas, such as the highly uncertain global economic scenario, higher WPI (Wholesale Price Index) and effective lending rates not higher than earlier levels, confirmed that slower growth could not be attributed to higher interest costs alone. The RBI's decision to retain the policy rates at the present level is therefore ‘appropriate', he added.

Mr K. Venkataraman, Chief Executive, Karur Vysya Bank, said the decision to leave the rates as such was understandable as the inflationary trend was coming back. “Containing inflation seems the primary concern for the RBI at present,” he said, and pointed out that the prolonged tight monetary measures were impacting the supply side. “The demand is artificially contained because of tight policy and this cannot continue in the long run,” he added.

Bankers felt that the issue at present was not liquidity, but pricing and hoped that the rates would eventually come down.

(This article was published on June 18, 2012)
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