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Bankers want a halt to hikes, clarity on inflation

Last updated on: July 19, 2011 08:34 IST

Bankers want a halt to interest rate hikes

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Amid a steep slowdown in credit off-take and an unexpected spike in deposits, bankers on Monday urged Reserve Bank of India to hold the policy rates at the current levels, and sought a clearer picture on the future interest rates and inflation scenarios at the policy review next week.

"Credit growth has been too lax for some time now. So we want the monetary authority to send out to a signal that there is a pause on rate tightening. Such a stance can send out the right signal to bankers as well as the industry.

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Image: RBI Governor D Subbarao,
Photographs: Reuters
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"We have also urged RBI to come out with a clear statement on the future interest rate and inflation scenarios in the July 26 policy document, so that the banks and the industry can plan better," chief executive officer of Indian Banks Association, K Ramakrishnan, told reporters.

He was talking to the media after the customary pre-policy meeting with RBI brass at Mint Road office in Mumbai.

Prominent bankers, led by State Bank chairman Pratip Chaudhuri, HDFC Bank's Aditya Puri, Bank of Baroda's M D Mallya and Bank of India's Alok Misra met deputy governor Subir Gokarn and aired views on the interest rates, credit and deposit growth, overall economic growth, stressed assets and other macroeconomic data ahead of the first quarter policy review on July 26.

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Image: Inflation is a worry for RBI.

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Bankers want a halt to hikes, clarity on inflation

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In its attempt to tame inflation, the central bank has spiked its key rates a record 10 times, whereby it has ratcheted up the short-term lending (repo) and reverse repo or borrowing rates by a massive 275 basis points since March '10.

Analysts are expecting another 25 bps spike on July 26 as inflation remains still highly sticky.

Since the June provisional inflation number has sniffed at a double-digit mark at 9.44 percent on the back of the recent hike in fuel prices, analysts and the industry are expecting further fillip to price rise, and another bout of tightening next week by RBI.

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Image: Reserve Bank of India.

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Bankers want a halt to hikes, clarity on inflation

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Bank of Baroda chairman and managing director M D Mallya, who is also chairman of IBA, warned of a steeper slowdown in credit growth; and said as no new projects are being planned by the industry, it is unlikely that banks will see an uptick in advances in the current quarter as well.

However, he said, the industry would wait a while longer to decide whether to scale growth target further down.

On the sectors which have seen the most muted level of credit growth, he said it was mostly the infrastructure space.

Ironically, this was one of the most vibrant sectors last year, he pointed out. Telecom alone took out nearly Rs 70,000 crore (Rs 700 billion) from the system last year to pay for the spectrum licences, he said.

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The head of the third largest state-run lender also warned that bankers could see more deterioration in the asset quality of SME advances going forward, if the overall industry scene remained cloudy as it is today.

On the liability front, the bankers in general have been witnessing reasonable growth in deposits, especially savings accounts.

Bank of India chairman and managing director Alok Misra said it was a bit early to revise downward the industry's growth target, even as the early signals were not encouraging.


Image: BJP supporters carry an effigy depicting inflation during a mock funeral procession.
Photographs: Reuters
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