Indian economy takes a breather in May before gaining momentum

Anirban Nag June 28 | Updated on June 28, 2021

A man stands in front of a screen displaying news of markets update inside the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building in Mumbai (file photo)   -  REUTERS

A slew of data from services activity to automobile sales pointed to lack of demand last month

India’s economy showed more signs of cooling in May, but the weakness is already beginning to dissipate of late as the nation exits lockdowns imposed to check the pandemic’s spread.

A slew of data from services activity to automobile sales pointed to lack of demand last month, which in turn kept the needle on an overall activity indicator unchanged at 6. The relatively strong score is because the gauge uses the three-month weighted average rates to smooth out volatility in the single-month readings.

Also read: India’s coal import rises 30 per cent to 22 million tonnes in April

With the second Covid-19 wave now receding, the economy is already beginning to stir back to life. A basket of high-frequency, alternative and market indicators such as retail activity and road congestion pointed to a pick up in the week to June 13, Abhishek Gupta, India economist at Bloomberg Economics, said in a report.

Here are the details of the dashboard for May:

Business Activity

Activity in India’s dominant services sector contracted for the first time in eight months in May. The IHS Markit India Services Purchasing Managers’ Index slid to 46.4 last month from 54 in April, falling below the 50 level that divides contraction from expansion. Services sector accounts for more than half of the nation’s gross domestic product.

Also read: S&P lowers India’s growth outlook to 9.5%

A similar survey earlier showed activity in the manufacturing sector losing momentum all of which dragged the composite index to 48.1 in May from 55.4 the previous month.


Exports growth picked up at 69.4 per cent year-on-year in May, aided by a favourable base and robust global demand. The performance was strong even sequentially, helped by shipments of petroleum products, engineering goods and chemicals. On the other hand, momentum for imports tapered, contracting from a month earlier, primarily on account of a sequential drop in demand for oil and gold.

Also read:India’s crude steel output grows 46.9 per cent to 9.2 million tonnes in May: worldsteel

Consumer Activity

Retail auto sales – a bellwether of consumer demand – fell by more than half in May from the previous month as local lockdowns kept dealerships shut. That together with falling consumer confidence and increasing job losses weighed on discretionary purchases.

Bank credit grew 6 per cent in May from a year earlier, picking up from 5.7 per cent expansion seen in end-April, central bank data showed. Liquidity conditions stayed comfortable, with the banking system in surplus.

Industrial Activity

Industrial production expanded, jumping 134.4 per cent in April from a year earlier, mainly because of a favourable base effect – with activity last year coming to a halt owing to a nationwide lockdown to control the pandemic’s spread.

Similarly, output at infrastructure industries, which makes up 40 per cent of the industrial production index, expanded 56.1 per cent in April from a year ago. Both data are published with a one-month lag.

Published on June 28, 2021

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