Economists expect retail in to spike in Apr due to lockdown
Retail inflation as measured by consumer price index (CPI) slowed to a four-month low of 5.91 per cent in March as against 6.58 per cent in February 2020 and 2.86 per cent in March 2019.
"The number does give a sense of improvement in inflation, which is misplaced given that the real impact of the lockdown will be felt sharply in April as prices of food items have increased quite sharply," Care Ratings chief economist Madan Sabnavis.
With the lockdown across the country and limited movement of goods due to absence of labour, trucks and activity in wholesale markets, there have been sharp declines in supplies of foodgrains, horticulture, sugar which have been reflected in higher prices in the market.
"This can push food inflation towards the 10 per cent mark. We can expect CPI inflation in April to be above 6 per cent," Sabnavis said.
However, core inflation will trend downwards as service prices would not be changing and those products with MRP would not witness a change even with supplies declining.
Kotak Mahindra Bank's senior economist Upasna Bhardwaj said going ahead CPI trajectory will remain above 5 per cent for the next few months before beginning to moderate at sub-four per cent around August.
"We expect the MPC to look through the near term inflation readings and focus on the medium-term trajectory while addressing the economic and financial stability," she said.
Bhardwaj said the RBI is expected to adopt several unconventional measures to tackle the current crisis beyond repo rate cuts.
"We see additional rate cuts of 50-75 basis points in the year ahead given our GDP expectations of 0.4 per cent in FY21," Bhardwaj said.
DBS Bank India economist Radhika Rao said March inflation was in line with the forecast.
"Undercurrents reflect a smaller pace of decline in food (MoM), but offset by low energy prices and subdued demand activity," she said.
On food, despite signs of a bumper harvest, market arrivals have dropped, particularly perishables (vegetables around 50-70 per cent) and foodgrains, she said.
Besides widening closure of wholesale markets, these supply shortages reflect logistical delays due to delays in intra-state movements due to lockdown situation and labour shortage, which are likely to cause short-term distortions in late-Q1 and Q2, along with a situation where consumption was dominated by essentials while rest of discretionary demand was scaled back, Rao said."Beyond these incipient pressures, inflation is expected to trend down for rest of FY21 and average around 4 per cent in FY21," Rao said. HV MR
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