India set to hike rates again in anti-inflation battle

NEW DELHI, March 16, 2011 (AFP) – India is set to raise borrowing costs on Thursday for an eighth time in just over a year as it struggles to bring down an inflation rate that is the highest of any major Asian economy. “We maintain the bank will increase rates by 25 basis points,” said CLSA economist Rajeev Malik. “The bank is unlikely to go in for a 50 basis point hike as that action could disrupt the growth momentum.” Data earlier in the week showed that annual inflation unexpectedly accelerated to 8.31 percent in February from 8.23 percent the previous month, defying forecasts of a slowdown.

“The question for this policy meeting is by how much the Reserve Bank of India will raise rates — not whether it will raise rates or not,” said HSBC chief Indian economist Leif Lybecker Eskesen.

Across Asia, countries such as China, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam have been tightening monetary policy to counter rising prices.

India’s central bank has been the region’s most active in raising rates as the South Asian giant powers out of the financial downturn with growth projected at nine percent for the next fiscal year starting April 1.

Inflation has been one of the biggest thorns in the side of the C