Inflation falls to over six-yr low of 2.43%

Inflation fell to a six-year-low of 2.43% for the week ended February 28 from 3.03% in the previous week, raising possibilities of further rate cuts. Analysts expect it to reach 0% by the end of this month. Lower prices of food items and manufactured products resulted in a fall in the inflation.

“Wholesale price index (WPI)-based inflation is now at its lowest level since June 2002, This is on the expected lines. It was during last February and March that inflation increased. The prices of commodities, primarily oil and foodgrains, have moderated,” said Pronab Sen, chief statistician of India and secretary, ministry of statistics & programme implementation.

Inflation is now below Reserve Bank of India (RBI’s) target of 3% by this fiscal-end. The fall in inflation has also raised hopes of further rate cuts by the Reserve Bank of India to spur the economy as industrial output contracted to 0.5%, for the second month in a row in January 2009. The RBI could cut policy rates by 50 basis points ahead of the general elections starting in mid-April, HSBC said in a note on Thursday. With a decline in the commodity prices, fiscal policies eased resulting in interest rate cuts, domestic activity should remain resilient, HSBC said. The RBI slashed its short-term lending and borrowing rates by 50 basis points each last week.

Inflation for the week ended January 3, 2009, was revised upward to 5.33% from 5.24% in the provisional estimates.

The 30-share BSE Sensex ended up 2.25% at 8,343.75 points and the 50-share NSE Nifty ended up 1.72% at 2,617.45 points, as investors tried to catch up with the upward movement on Wall Street on Tuesday and Wednesday. The 10-year bond yield ended at 7.17%, above Monday’s close of 6.84% as investors braced up for heavy supplies of government debt. The rupee ended at 51.88/90 per dollar, from Monday’s close of 51.85/87, and off an intra-day peak of 51.525, as a rise in share prices was offset by renewed dollar buying by crude refiners after a rebound in global oil prices.

Primary articles’ prices decreased to 5.8% for the week ended February 28 from 6% in the earlier week, the finance ministry said in a statement. In food articles, inflation remained stable at 8.3% in the current and previous weeks, but sub-groups such as fruits and vegetables, condiments and spices and other food articles have recorded an increase in prices compared to last week.

In non-food articles, inflation fell to 1.3% compared to 1.7% in the previous week. Fuel and power group prices continued to decline at 5.1% vis-à-vis 4% last week. Manufactured products’ inflation rate decreased to 4% in the current week, from 4.5% last week.

Source: IBEF 13/03/09

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