Retail inflation nosedives in wake of India’s cash crackdown

India’s sudden move on Nov. 8 to cancel 500-rupee and 1,000-rupee banknotes, which accounted for 86 percent of the cash circulating in the economy, has disrupted daily life. (Reuters)
Updated 13 December 2016
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Retail inflation nosedives in wake of India’s cash crackdown

NEW DELHI: India’s retail inflation cooled to a two-year low in November after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s shock currency replacement program dented consumer spending, fueling hopes of an interest rate cut by the central bank at its next policy review.
Consumer prices rose by an annual 3.63 percent last month, their slowest pace since November 2014, government data showed on Tuesday. Economists surveyed by Reuters had expected prices to rise 3.90 percent year-on-year, compared with a 4.20 gain in October.
Food inflation was 2.11 percent last month, lower than October’s 3.32 percent.
Modi’s sudden move on Nov. 8 to cancel 500-rupee and 1,000-rupee banknotes, which accounted for 86 percent of the cash circulating in Asia’s third-largest economy, has disrupted daily life, depressing consumer demand.
People struggling to get new notes are holding back on spending, except for immediate and urgent needs.
November’s reading is way below the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) 5 percent inflation target for March 2017 as well as the medium-term target of 4 percent.
With the cash shortage hitting consumer demand, some economists expect headline retail inflation to stay below 4 percent in coming months and undershoot the RBI’s March target by at least 50 basis points.
“I expect the demonetization impact to help cool off inflation till February, due to demand contraction,” said Rupa Rege Nitsure, chief economist at L&T Finance Holdings in Mumbai.
“I expect RBI to cut rates in February.”
In a sign of things to come, Indian services activity plunged into contraction in November for the first time since June 2015, due to a sharp decline in demand, a survey showed, while factory activity also slowed.
Still, the RBI surprised investors last week by keeping interest rates on hold, saying the impact of the currency swap program on the economy would be transitory. The central bank also flagged inflationary risks emanating from the currency shortages that could endanger the winter crop and an uncertain outlook for global crude prices and increasing volatility in the foreign exchange market.
Crude oil prices this week hit their highest level since mid-2015, after the world’s top crude producers agreed to the first joint output cut since 2001.
The US dollar’s rally against emerging market currencies, such as the rupee, on bets that Donald Trump will adopt policies to spark growth, has also raised the specter of imported inflation.
“There is limited scope for deeper easing,” said Abhishek Upadhyay, an economist at ICICI Securities Primary Dealership.

RBI official held
Investigators arrested a central bank official Tuesday for allegedly illegally exchanging old bills worth some Rs15 million ($222,000) for new ones.
India’s Central Bureau of Investigation arrested K. Michael, an official at the Reserve Bank of India, in the southern city of Bangalore after they found him working with a state bank employee to convert old banknotes without legal documentation.
“K. Michael... has been arrested for his alleged involvement in converting old 500-rupee and 1,000- rupee notes worth Rs15 million into 100-rupee notes,” a CBI official told AFP on the condition of anonymity.
Investigators also found him hoarding Rs16 million in new 500-rupee and 2,000-rupee notes. The RBI said Michael was a junior official and had been suspended.
“The concerned employee has been suspended,” S.S. Mundra, an RBI deputy governor, told reporters. “We have instituted investigation and due action will be taken once the details are known.”
The CBI has also registered criminal cases of cheating against several public and private bank employees. Seven middlemen in Bangalore were also arrested for “converting unaccounted cash” and more than Rs9 million were recovered, an official told AFP.


OPEC cut ‘biggest in almost 2 years’

Updated 18 January 2019
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OPEC cut ‘biggest in almost 2 years’

  • OPEC said in a monthly report its oil output fell by 751,000 barrels per day (bpd) in December to 31.58 million bpd
  • OPEC expects 2019 global oil demand growth to slow to 1.29 million bpd from 1.5 million in 2018

LONDON: OPEC said on Thursday it had cut oil output sharply in December before a new accord to limit supply took effect, suggesting producers have made a strong start to averting a glut in 2019 as a slowing economy curbs demand.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said in a monthly report its oil output fell by 751,000 barrels per day (bpd) in December to 31.58 million bpd, the biggest month-on-month drop in almost two years.
Worried by a drop in oil prices and rising supplies, OPEC and its allies, including Russia, agreed in December to return to production cuts in 2019. They pledged to lower output by 1.2 million bpd, of which OPEC’s share is 800,000 bpd.
The reduction in December means that should OPEC fully implement the new Jan. 1 cut, it will avoid a surplus that could weaken prices. Oil slid from $86 a barrel in October to below $50 in December on concerns of excess supply.
OPEC expects 2019 global oil demand growth to slow to 1.29 million bpd from 1.5 million in 2018 although it was more upbeat about the economic backdrop than last month and cited better sentiment in the oil market, where crude is back above $60.
“While the economic risk remains skewed to the downside, the likelihood of a moderation in monetary tightening is expected to slow the decelerating economic growth trend in 2019,” OPEC said.
“This has recently been reflected in global financial markets. The positive effect on market sentiment was also witnessed in the oil market,” it said.
The supply cut was a policy U-turn after the producer alliance known as OPEC+ agreed in June 2018 to boost supply amid pressure from US President Donald Trump to lower prices and cover an expected shortfall in Iranian exports.
OPEC changed course after the slide in prices starting in October. A previous OPEC+ supply curb starting in January 2017 — when OPEC production fell by 890,000 bpd according to OPEC figures — got rid of a glut formed in 2014-2016.
In a sign of excess supply, OPEC’s report said oil inventories in developed economies had stayed above the five-year average in November.
The biggest drop in OPEC supply last month came from Saudi Arabia and amounted to 468,000 bpd, the survey showed.
Saudi supply in November had hit a record above 11 million bpd.
The Kingdom told OPEC it lowered supply to 10.64 million bpd in December and has said it plans to go even further in January by delivering a larger cut than required under the OPEC+ deal.
The second-largest was an involuntary cut by Libya, where unrest led to the shutdown of the country’s biggest oilfield.
Output from Iran posted the third-largest decline, also involuntary, as US sanctions that started in November discouraged companies from buying its oil.
Iran, Libya and Venezuela are exempt from the 2019 supply cut deal and are expected by some analysts to post further falls, giving a tailwind to the voluntary effort by the others.
OPEC said in the report that 2019 demand for its crude would decline to 30.83 million bpd, a drop of 910,000 bpd from 2018, as rivals pump more and the slowing economy curbs demand.
Delivering the 800,000 bpd cut from December’s level should mean the group would be pumping slightly less than the expected demand for its crude this year and so avoid a surplus. Last month’s report had pointed to a surplus.
The figures for OPEC production and demand for its crude were lowered by about 600,000 bpd to reflect Qatar’s exit from the group, which now has 14 members.