India’s inflation in 2023-24 seen averaging near RBI’s 6 pc upper band: Fitch


Fitch Ratings forecasts India’s headline inflation to decline, but remain near the upper end of the Reserve Bank of India’s 2-6 per cent target band, averaging 5.8 per cent in 2023-24 from 6.7 per cent last year.

The global rating agency said India’s core inflation pressure appears to be abating, falling to 5.7 per cent in March, its lowest since July 2021. Inflation has been a concern for many countries, including advanced economies, but India has managed to steer its inflation trajectory quite well.

In India, headline consumer price index-based (CPI) inflation (or retail inflation) has gradually declined from its peak of 7.8 per cent in April 2022 to 5.7 per cent in March 2023. India’s retail inflation was above RBI’s 6 per cent target for three consecutive quarters and managed to fall back to the RBI’s comfort zone only in November 2022.

Assuming an annual average crude oil price (Indian basket) of USD 85 per barrel and a normal monsoon, CPI (or retail) inflation is projected to moderate to 5.2 per cent for 2023-24 in India as estimated by RBI in its April monetary policy meeting; with Q1 at 5.1 per cent; Q2 at 5.4 per cent; Q3 at 5.4 per cent; and Q4 at 5.2 per cent.

In the banking sector, they appear well-positioned to support sustained credit growth if capitalisation is well-managed.

“Sustained improvements in asset quality and profitability have led to a strengthening of bank balance sheets on the back of the economic recovery. This has created headroom to absorb risks as pandemic-related forbearance measures continue to unwind in FY24 (2023-24),” it said in a report.

Fitch Ratings forecasts India to be one of the fastest-growing Fitch-rated sovereigns globally at 6 per cent in the fiscal year ending March 2024, supported by resilient investment prospects.

“Still, headwinds from elevated inflation, high-interest rates and subdued global demand, along with fading pandemic-induced pent-up demand, will slow growth from our 2022-23 estimate of 7.0 per cent before rebounding to 6.7 per cent by 2024-25.”

India’s growth prospects have brightened as the private sector appears poised for stronger investment growth following the improvement of corporate and bank balance sheets in the past few years, supported by the government’s infrastructure drive, it said.

“Still, risks remain given low labour force participation rates and an uneven reform implementation record,” it said.

Fitch Ratings has affirmed India’s Long-Term Foreign-Currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at ‘BBB-‘ with a Stable Outlook.

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