Sunday, 17 November, 2019

Moody’s lowers India outlook to ‘negative’, but government says fundamentals remain robust

Moody’s Investors Service has changed the outlook on India’s ratings to ‘negative’ from ‘stable Moody’s Investors Service has changed the outlook on India’s ratings to ‘negative’ from ‘stable
Russell Knight | 08 November, 2019, 12:42

Global ratings agency Moody's has changed its outlook on India from stable to negative, citing increasing risks that economic growth of Asia's third-largest economy will remain "materially lower than in the past". This prompted a number of rate cuts by the central bank, with the government introducing several measures (including a sharp cut in corporate taxes) to boost growth.

The country's foreign issuer rating was affirmed at Baa2, which is the second-lowest investment grade score.

India's growth outlook has deteriorated sharply this year, with a crunch that started out in the non-banking financial institutions (NBFIs) spreading to retail businesses, auto makers, home sales and heavy industries. The announcement came amid a consistent slowdown in growth, which recorded a six-year low of 5% during the first quarter of the 2019-'20 financial year.

In a statement, Moody's said the outlook partly reflects government and policy ineffectiveness in addressing economic weakness, which led to an increase in debt burden which is already at high levels, the rating agency said.

To avoid the scenario, the Centre must address fiscal deficit concerns.

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The benchmark S&P BSE Sensex stock index dropped 0.2 per cent at 9:25am in Mumbai, while the rupee fell 0.4 per cent to 71.25 per United States dollar at open after the outlook cut.

In an official statement, the finance ministry said India continues to offer strong prospects of growth in near and medium term.

The government has undertaken series of financial sector and other reforms to strengthen the economy as a whole, the ministry added.

The downgrade to the outlook puts additional pressure on authorities to kickstart the economy, although they have limited room to move. India's ratings was upgraded to Baa2 from Baa3 in 2017 citing progress on "economic and institutional reforms" by the Narendra Modi government. "Moody's does not expect the credit crunch among NBFIs [non-bank financial institutions], major providers of retail loans in recent years, to be resolved quickly".

"There have been some concerns about fiscal slippage", said Shamaila Khan, director of emerging-market debt at AllianceBernstein in NY. "As India's potential growth rate remains unchanged, assessment by International Monetary Fund and other multilateral organizations continue to underline a positive outlook on India", the statement added.

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