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India's central bank cuts interest rates to six-year low

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The Reserve Bank of India said the benchmark repo rate - the level at which it lends to commercial banks - would be brought down by 25 basis points from 6.50 per cent.

[MUMBAI] India's central bank cut interest rates to a six-year low of 6.25 per cent Tuesday, citing a good monsoon, in its first monetary policy decision under new governor Urjit Patel.

The Reserve Bank of India said the benchmark repo rate - the level at which it lends to commercial banks - would be brought down by 25 basis points from 6.50 per cent. It was last at 6.25 per cent in November 2010.

"The outlook for agricultural activity has brightened considerably," the RBI said in a statement, adding that 85 per cent of the country had received "normal to excess precipitation" during India's four-month-long monsoon.

Good monsoon rains are vital for Indian crops and a particularly dry season can reduce farm output, raising food prices which can be crippling for the tens of millions of India's poor.

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The above average rains have brought relief to millions of rural farmers who were reeling from two years of drought, helping to push inflation down to a five-year low in August.

Tuesday's interest rate decision was the first to be made by a new Indian monetary policy committee, which was established last month, rather than the chief of the central bank.

Previously the governor would decide whether to cut rates. Now they are set by a six-member committee, including Mr Patel, two RBI executives, and three independent economists appointed by the government.

Mr Patel enjoys a deciding vote in the event of a tie, but cannot veto or overrule the committee. The panel is similar to a committee in Britain that sets rates for the Bank of England.

All six members of the monetary policy committee voted in favour of cutting rates to 6.25 per cent, said the RBI statement.

India is the world's fastest-growing major economy but growth slowed sharply to 7.1 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter of the 2016-17 financial year.

That was down from 7.9 per cent recorded in the preceding quarter, according to statistics ministry figures announced in August.

AFP

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