Consumer inflation in the country came in at 6.69 per cent in August, a notch lower compared to 6.73 per cent in the previous month and slightly better than economists’ estimates,government data showed on Monday. Marginally easing food prices, with the gradual lifting of coronavirus-related restrictions, led to the improvement in the overall inflation reading. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) tracks retail inflation – or the rate of increase in consumer prices as determined by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) – primarily for making changes to its monetary policy.
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Nearly 50 economists had expected consumer prices to have risen 6.85 per cent in August from a year ago, according to a poll conducted by news agency Reuters.
Food inflation – or the rate of rise in food prices – was at 9.05 per cent last month, as against 9.27 per cent in July.
The latest data shows consumer inflation has remained above the central bank’s medium term range of 4-6 per cent for a fifth month in a row.
Last month, the Reserve Bank of India had refrained from easing the monetary policy further, after months of aggressive cuts in interest rates, citing inflationary pressures.
Analysts expect the central bank to keep key interest rates on hold for now.
“Despite unlocking phases, the supply-side disruption is surging the food and fuel prices…. RBI rate cut hopes still remain low at least at the October policy,” said Rahul Gupta, head of research-currency at Emkay Global Financial Services.
The RBI’s Monetary Policy Committee, headed by Governor Shaktikanta Das, adjusts key rates based on changes in inflation trends.
However, in recent months, the central bank has shifted its focus to revival of economic growth from keeping inflation under control, in a move aimed at minimising the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, which has impacted economic and business activity significantly.
The RBI Governor has warned that consumer inflation is expected to remain elevated in the country during the July-September period, and may subside going forward.
Separate official data released during market hours on Monday showed wholesale prices in the country rose 0.16 per cent last month, having remained in a deflationary mode for four months in a row.