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First repo rate cut by RBI expected only in 3QFY25, say analysts

India's January CPI inflation moderated to 5.1 per cent, in line with expectations, while core inflation remained subdued at 3.5 per cent.

New Delhi, Feb 13,2024:  India’s January CPI inflation moderated to 5.1 per cent, in line with expectations, while core inflation remained subdued at 3.5 per cent.

The inflation trajectory has begun softening although the risks remain skewed towards the upside, Kotak Institutional Equities said in a report.

“We maintain our FY2024-25 headline inflation estimates at 5.4 per cent and 4.5 per cent. We continue to expect the RBI to change its stance by end-1QFY25 followed by rate cuts in 3QFY25,” the report said.

January CPI inflation at 5.1 per cent was broadly in line with expectations. Sequentially, headline inflation contracted by 0.1 per cent (December: -0.3 per cent) led mainly by vegetables, followed by fruits, spices, pulses, and oils and fats.

Meanwhile, prices of cereals, meat and fish, and eggs increased in January, the report said.

Positively, durable inflation (though elevated) and food and beverages inflation (excluding vegetables and fruits) have been on a downtrend over the past few months.

As expected, the inflation trajectory has begun softening. However, uncertainties remain from adverse weather events impacting food prices, and the Red Sea conflict (among other geopolitical tensions) impacting energy prices, the report said.

“We expect the first repo rate cut only in 3QFY25, conditional on easing food price pressure, and the US Fed’s rate cut cycle starting in 2HCY24. Prior to rate cuts, we expect the RBI to change its stance to neutral by end 1QFY25. On the liquidity front, we expect the RBI to continue to fine-tune system liquidity to anchor overnight rates closer to the repo rate,” it added.

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