The Prime Minister’s economic advisory council’s candid comments on the need for monetary tightening are clearly aimed at the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), which will hold its quarterly review of monetary policy on Tuesday. The council hasn’t toed the party line of a “calibrated exit" from monetary stimulus enthusiastically espoused by both the central bank and the government. Instead, it has said the recovery is strong and, therefore, “in the backdrop of inflation rates that are more than twice the comfort zone, it is important that monetary policy completes the process of exit…" It couldn’t have been more explicit.

Also See Policy Rate Too Low (Graphic)

The council has already moved up the forecast for wholesale price inflation at the end of March 2011 from RBI’s 5.5% to 6.5%. With expected inflation at 6.5% and the current repo rate at 5.5%, the policy rate is a negative 1%. So it’s hard to see how a policy of “calibrated exit" will work, especially since non-food manufacturing inflation was at 7.3% year-on-year in June. Deutsche Bank AG has a chart, reproduced here, that shows the gap between real growth and real interest rates is very high.

The stock market is, therefore, sanguine that high growth will offset any timorous attempts to tighten monetary policy, with none of the so-called rate-sensitive sectors showing any big changes in the run-up to the monetary policy announcement. While the Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensex moved up 0.98% last week and 2.26% in the past one month, look at the gains in the rate-sensitive indices: the BSE Bankex up 0.83% last week and 4.52% in the past one month; the realty index up 0.72% and 9.47%, respectively, and the auto index up 0.92% and 1.56%, respectively. The yield on the benchmark 10-year government security is at 7.68%—here, too, the rise has been only 4 basis points in the past week. One basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage point. The markets love “calibrated" tightening.

Graphic by Naveen Kumar Saini/Mint

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