India’s retail inflation rate eased to 3.41% in December from November’s 3.63%, confirming fears of weak demand as households are majorly affected by demonetisation or the cash crunch scenario.
The retail inflation has grown 5.61% in December 2015, indicating a more expansionary economy a year ago.
The latest price data is emblematic of the slide in shop-end sales, triggered by the unexpected ban on Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 currency notes in November.
Consumer food price inflation, a metric to gauge changes in monthly kitchen costs, also moderated to 1.37, more than five percentage points lower than 6.40% a year ago, reflecting how the cash-crunch has hurt demand for both perishable and processed food items.
Spending on goods and services in the retail inflation index excluding food and fuel, which constitute 16% of the CPI basket, appear to have been worst affected by restricted access to cash. For instance, demonetisation appears to have had an adverse effect on eating out.
The growth in consumer price index for “prepared meals”, a proxy to measure changes in restaurant meal rates and readymade food items such as sweets and packaged snacks, moderated to 5.64% in December in 2016 from 6.82% in December 2015 indicating that less money in their pockets have forced a cut-down in people’s spend on out-of-home dining.
Housing inflation grew by 4.98% in December from 5.04% in November. At 3.41% , retail inflation is hurtling fast towards the government and Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI’s) the lower tolerance limit and can be a cause for worry unless steps are taken to engineer a quick turnaround in consumer spending.
The retail inflation data, measured by the consumer price index (CPI), is the broadest metric to measure cost of living in India, also serves as the RBI’s main guide for fitting trends in economy-wide price movements.
The RBI and the government have set a retail inflation target of 4% for the next five years with an upper tolerance level of six percent and lower limit of two percent.
In its monetary policy review last month, the RBI retained its March-end retail inflation forecast of 5%, cautioning that high oil prices could push up domestic prices.