Retail inflation rises to 4.88%, factory output dips

A sharp spurt in food and fuel prices pushed India’s annual retail inflation in November over the RBI’s median level of 4 per cent, even as factory output growth in October contracted to 2.2 per cent official data showed on Tuesday. According to the data from the Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation, consumer price index (CPI) inflation in November rose to 4.88 per cent from 3.58 per cent reported for October. The rate of retail food inflation during November stood at 4.41 per cent on a year-on-year basis, as compared 1.90 per cent the previous month owing to a rise in the prices of items like vegetables, milk-based products, cereals, meat and fish. The “fuel and light’ segment’s inflation rate accelerated to 7.92 per cent in November. Vegetables during the month became costlier by a staggering 22.48 per cent, while prices of milk-based products rose by 4.52 per cent. Meanwhile, data on Tuesday also showed the country’s factory output growth slipped to 2.2 per cent in October, from 4.14 per cent in September, mainly on account of a deceleration in manufacturing and mining outputs. As per the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) data released by the Central Statistics Office, on a year-on-year basis, the manufacturing sector expanded by 2.5 per cent, whereas mining output was a mere 0.2 per cent and electricity generation expanded by 3.2 per cent. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has a medium-term target for consumer price index (CPI) inflation of 4 per cent with a range band of 2 per cent either way. At its fifth bi-monthly monetary policy review of the fiscal earlier the month, the RBI kept its key lending rate unchanged at 6 per cent for the third time in a row, citing concerns over the rising trajectory of inflation. Commenting on the IIP data, industry chamber Assocham said manufacturing activity slowed in October as inflows of new orders stagnated “even as negative effects from implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) continued to dampen demand levels.” “Demand side scenario for intermediate and basic goods is not encouraging and needs attention to identify factors and remedial measures for revival,” Assocham Secretary General D.S. Rawat said in a statement here. “We at Assocham expect that domestic conditions for growth will improve gradually, mainly driven by consumption demand, which is expected to strengthen with implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission and government stimulus package to revive the economy,” he added.

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Barron's wants Raghuram Rajan to head US Fed

Former Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan will be an apt pick to head the US Federal Reserve, global financial magazine Barron’s has said. “If sports teams can recruit the best talent from around the globe, why not central banks?” an article in Barron’s magazine asked, as it pitched for Rajan as the next chairman of the American central bank. US President Donald Trump is expected to soon announce a successor to Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, whose term will end early next year. “Nowhere on the short list of potential candidates to lead the Federal Reserve is the current star among the world’s central bankers — someone who oversaw a sharp drop in inflation, the stabilization of a currency and a 50 per cent jump in stock prices,” the article stated. “Perhaps more important, his was a lonely but prescient voice warning of a financial crisis resulting from excessive risk-taking in credit derivatives-years before it hit.” There are precedents for central banks to be headed by non-citizens such as Canadian-born Mark Carney at the Bank of England, the article said. It said “nobody is touting Rajan for a Fed post although he had been mentioned as possible Nobel laureate in economics”. In 2013, Rajan became the RBI head at a time when the rupee was sliding and prices were soaring. Despite his success in crushing the double-digit inflation, he did not get a second term. He also warned against Modi’s demonetisation plan late last year when much of the nation’s currency was withdrawn from circulation as an anti-corruption measure. Now Rajan is back at the Booth School of the University of Chicago where he had taught until 2003, when he became the youngest chief economist and director of research at the International Monetary Fund and the first non-Westerner to hold the post. He also predicted a financial crisis at an annual gathering of economists and bankers in the US in 2005.

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