New Delhi: In its penultimate monetary policy review of the current fiscal, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Wednesday kept its key lending rate for commercial banks unchanged at 6.5 per cent for the second time in succession.

The Reserve Bank of India also made no changes to its stance of “calibrated tightening” adopted in the policy review of October India’s central bank keeps key lending rate intact at 6.5 per cent.

“The decision of the Monetary Policy Committee is consistent with the stance of calibrated tightening of monetary policy in consonance with the objective of achieving the medium-term target for consumer price index (CPI) inflation of 4 per cent within a band of +/-2 per cent, while supporting growth,” RBI said.

The central bank also retained the GDP growth projection for FY19 at 7.4 per cent. For the first half of 2019-20, the GDP is been projected at 7.5 per cent.

RBI said inflation in the second half of the current fiscal is projected at is projected at 2.7-3.2 per cent. While the decision on keeping the policy rate unchanged was unanimous, Ravindra H Dholakia voted to change the stance to neutral.

After hikes since June, the RBI had kept interest rates unchanged in the previous policy review in October. The repo rate, at which RBI lends to other banks, was left unchanged at 6.50 per cent.

The six-member Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), headed by RBI Governor Urjit Patel, has been meeting for the fifth bi-monthly monetary policy review of the current financial year. The MPC’s decision will be announced in the afternoon of December 5.

Since the previous announcement, the rupee has appreciated against the US dollar and moved above the psychologically crucial mark of 70. However, India’s economic growth has slowed to 7.1 per cent in the September quarter after peaking to an over two-year high in the first three months of this fiscal, as consumption demand moderated and farm sector displayed signs of weakness.

The growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in July-September is the lowest in three quarters but better than 6.3 per cent in the same period of the previous year. The Indian economy had grown by 8.2 per cent in the first quarter of the current fiscal year that began in April, according to data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

“While softer retail fuel prices will push core inflation lower, there will be a significant divergence from headline inflation mainly on the back of higher prices of education and health,” Kotak Research said, adding that it expects RBI to maintain status-quo.

Devendra Kumar Pant, Chief Economist, India Ratings and Research (Fitch Group), said 2018-19 may still end up with a GDP growth of 7.3 per cent and “RBI may get the much-needed elbow room to keep the policy rate unchanged in the forthcoming bi-monthly policy review on 5 December 2018”. Retail inflation based on Consumer Price Index (CPI) fell to a one-year low of 3.31 per cent in October on the back of cheaper kitchen staples, fruits and protein-rich items, as per latest available data.

It was 3.7 per cent in September 2018 and 3.58 p per cent in October 2017. The retail inflation number is the lowest since September 2017, when it touched 3.28 per cent.

(With agency inputs)