The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) may cut key policy rates by 0.25 percent either at the upcoming policy review in February or the one after that in April, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said Thursday.
For the second time in a row, the central bank maintained status quo on all key policy rates in the fifth bi-monthly monetary policy review announced Wednesday.
It had raised the repo rate, or the rate at which the RBI lends short-term money to the banks, twice by 0.25 percent during its June and August policy reviews.
"We expect the RBI MPC (monetary policy committee) to roll back at least 0.25 percent of the 0.50 percent rate hike, in February or April," the American brokerage said in a statement.
It said although RBI retained the "calibrated tightening" stance, governor Urjit Patel said there is room for commensurate policy action opens up if risks to their inflation forecast do not materialise.
It can be noted that the RBI lowered its second half inflation estimate to 2.7-3.2 percent, from the earlier 3.9-4.5 percent earlier.
"If the upside risks we have flagged do not materialise or are muted in their impact as reflected in the incoming data, there is a possibility of space opening up for commensurate policy actions," Patel had said Wednesday, hinting of a hike.
The risks include food prices, impact of minimum support prices hike on inflation, crude prices and global financial markets.
The brokerage said the monetary policy committee's inflation risks are "proving overdone" and the headline price rise number is expected to slip to 2.8 percent on low inflation on the agricultural front.
The headline inflation will come at 3.7 percent for in December and the second half average will be 3.5 percent, which is lower than the 4 percent medium term target for RBI, the brokerage said, pointing it as a key factor it will monitor to decide whether the cut happens in February or April.
Moreover, it said growth is expected to be impacted due to the tight liquidity, which will aggravate the base effects, hinting that accommodating the growth concerns may lead to the decision.
The wheat sowing is also a cause of concern, it said, adding that the water levels in dams will be of help.
The fourth factor determining the rate cut timing will be the oil prices, it said.The brokerage said it expects RBI to step up liquidity injection through its open market operations, to Rs 50,000 crore a month during the March quarter.