Wholesale Price Index (WPI) inflation has been recorded -2.36 per cent in May 2015, marking the seventh consecutive month in which it has been negative, compared to -2.65 per cent in April 2015.The continued narrowing in WPI was due to broad-based factors, with the three main components of the index-primary articles (-0.77 per cent), fuel and power (-10.5 per cent), and manufactured products (-0.64 per cent) — all trending negative.
Food inflation remained positive, at 3.8 per cent compared to what it was in May 2014. Food inflation, which was a concern due to the India Meteorological Department’s prediction of a deficient monsoon, was lower than feared — it increased only 0.5 per cent over what it was in April. Higher prices of gram, urad, arhar, masur and tea result in the rise in the prices of food articles over previous month. Rise in the index of non-food items is due to the increase in the prices of soyabean, guar seed and sugarcane.
The ongoing decline in WPI Inflation could be put down to better management by the government. Importantly, vegetable and fruit prices have been well behaved despite the untimely rains earlier in the year. This could possibly reflect better supply side management by the government. Though the monsoon has been predicted to be below normal this year, the Government has already outlined its preparedness and plan of action to deal with any contingency on this account. This should ensure keeping in check any pressure on inflation arising from the food segment.
The ongoing decline in the price of manufactured products is mostly due to external factors, according to a report by CARE Ratings. “The decline in prices of manufactured products is in part a reflection of the decline in global crude and metal prices which has lowered the cost of raw materials and inputs used in the production process,” the report said. However, the report added that this decline in price also reflects the inability of the producers to raise prices in the absence of a pick-up in demand and prevailing excess capacity.
Consumer Price Index and WPI
The headline CPI inflation is expected to reach a low of around 4.2 per cent by August 2015 aided by a favourable base effect, before picking up in the second half of Financial Year 2016 towards around 6.0 per cent by March 2016. The WPI inflation trajectory will move into the positive from November onwards to register around 3.3 per cent by March 2016. This uncertainty, along with volatility surrounding the Fed’s rate hike, should keep the RBI cautious and stop it from easing rates further in CY 2015.
Last week, in a column in The Indian Express, Chief Economic Advisor to the Ministry of Finance Arvind Subramanian questioned whether monetary policy decisions based on the CPI was the best policy.
“Today, real policy rates are either 2.4 per cent, based on the CPI, 5.9 per cent, based on the average of the CPI and WPI, or a whopping 7.5 per cent, based on the GDP deflator. Which is the right measure of the monetary policy stance? The monetary policy agreement between the Ministry of Finance and the RBI, as well as the Urjit Patel report, has argued, not inappropriately, that the inflation target/objective should be based on the CPI. In normal times, that would be completely unobjectionable. But are these normal times, when the price indicators are, frankly, pointing in dramatically different directions?” he wrote.