India July inflation likely breached RBI’s 6% upper tolerance level: Reuters poll

By Milounee Purohit

BENGALURU (Reuters) – India’s retail inflation likely accelerated to 6.40% in July on surging food prices, breaching the upper end of the Reserve Bank of India’s 2%-6% tolerance band for the first time in five months, a Reuters poll of economists found.

Food prices, which account for nearly half of the inflation basket, have soared in the last two months largely due to an erratic monsoon throughout the country, pushing tomato prices at wholesale markets up more than 1,400% in the past three months.

That will hit the vast majority of India’s population who make up the poor and middle classes. But the RBI is unlikely to react to the figures and leave rates unchanged at its Thursday meeting.

The Aug. 3-8 Reuters poll of 53 economists predicted the consumer price index (CPI) rose at an annual rate of 6.40% in July.

The forecast range was 4.85%-7.60%, with a strong three-quarters majority expecting it to surpass the central bank’s top end of the inflation target band, suggesting the food price surge was likely to persist at least for the next few weeks.

“There are no signs of any sequential moderation in food prices in August,” noted Rahul Bajoria, chief India economist at Barclays. “Although it is still early in the month, we expect CPI inflation prints to remain elevated in the next couple of months, and then start easing in Q4 2023.”

A majority 86%, 24 of 28, economists who answered an additional question said inflation will stay above 6% by the end of the current quarter.

If the poll median is correct, the current surge in inflation was likely to outstrip the 5.2% the RBI projects for this quarter.

“Sudden spikes in food inflation generally last for three to four months before they start to mean revert and when they do, the fall is equally sharp,” noted Kunal Kundu, India economist at Societe Generale, but added that was not always the case.

The survey also showed wholesale price inflation, the change in producer prices, likely fell 2.70% year-on-year in July, after a 4.12% decline in June.

(Reporting by Milounee Purohit; Polling by Devayani Sathyan and Veronica Khongwir; Editing by Hari Kishan, Alexandra Hudson)