India's IIP growth posted a moderate improvement to 1.3% YoY in Jan-22 from 0.7% in Dec-21.

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Mar 17, 2022

MACRO Tidings: Is India's inflation getting persistent and pervasive?

India's CPI inflation has broadly remained within the upper range of the policy target band post the shock from the first wave of COVID. This has engendered a belief that supply side disruptions, the primary reason behind deviation from point target, need to be looked through if the threshold for inflation tolerance is not breached sustainably. We empathized with this view for two consecutive years marked by stop-start fluctuations in the economy on account of lockdowns. While the pandemic continues to persist, it is gradually acquiring an endemic characteristic. Meanwhile, improving vaccination cover, upgradation of healthcare facilities, and behavioral changes are helping economic agents to live with the virus. This leads us to believe that the hitherto supply-side drivers of inflation could potentially make a gradual transition towards demand side drivers as economies get unlocked and producers seek opportunities to pass through elevated input costs, some of which are turning out to be non-transitory. We find evidence of India's CPI inflation entering a persistent phase, marked by pervasiveness among its drivers. The median inflation is currently at its highest since the beginning of the flexible inflation targeting regime. In addition, more than 50% of items in the CPI basket currently have inflation at 6% or above. We believe this could impart stickiness to inflation. Moreover, this internal imbalance could soon start reflecting in external imbalances via widening of current account deficit. This will require a coordinated policy approach to anchor inflation expectations. Administrative dexterity in managing supply and price disruptions in the near term needs to be complemented with a timely normalization of monetary policy to ensure that the medium-term growth-inflation balance remain sustainable.