INDIA: No change to repo rate at 8%

India’s central bank kept key interest rates steady yesterday in a widely anticipated move less than a week before the start of national elections. After a meeting in Mumbai, the Reserve Bank of India said the benchmark repo rate, at which it lent to commercial banks, would remain at 8 percent. “At the current juncture, it is appropriate to hold the policy rate, while allowing the rate increases undertaken during September 2013 to January 2014, to work their way through the economy,” bank governor Raghuram Rajan said. The central bank last raised rates on January 28, the third hike since September last year, as part of its battle against inflation. – Sapa-AFP

UK: Royal Mail sale price ‘too low’

Britain sold off Royal Mail too cheaply, the state spending watchdog said yesterday, prompting the opposition Labour Party to accuse Prime Minister David Cameron’s government of failing to look after the interests of taxpayers. Britain’s decision to sell a 60 percent stake in the 500-year-old state postal operator in October last year for £3.30 (R58) a share has been heavily criticised by Labour and trade unions after the stock soared by as much as 87 percent. The sell-off, which followed three failed attempts to privatise Royal Mail in 20 years, came in the face of a possible strike at Royal Mail that the government had said could deter investors and contributed to its cautious approach on price. The National Audit Office said the caution had led to taxpayers losing out on at least £750 million (R13.2 billion) in the sale. Britain sold its 60 percent stake for £1.98bn. However, the shares closed at £4.55 on the first day of trading, 38 percent above their offer price. – Reuters

GREECE: E6.3bn bailout funds pending

Greece would receive e6.3 billion (R92bn) from its pending EU bailout fund at the end of this month, Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said yesterday. “A first tranche of e6.3bn at the end of April will allow Greece to meet its debt servicing needs in May,” Dijsselbloem said during a Eurogroup meeting in Athens. He added that two more slices of e1bn would be disbursed in June and July, noting that the release was tied to Greek progress on pledged reforms. Greece was first bailed out by the EU, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank with e110bn in 2010. – Sapa-AFP

OECD: Energy prices reduce inflation

Weak energy prices pushed down inflation in advanced economies to 1.4 percent in February from 1.7 percent in January, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said yesterday against a background of concern that euro zone inflation was too low. In the euro zone, inflation “slowed to 0.7 percent in February, compared with 0.8 percent in January”, the OECD said. Referring to the overall figures, it said that “this slowdown in the annual rate of inflation was driven by energy prices, which fell by 0.4 percent in the year to February compared with an increase of 2.1 percent in the year to January”. – Sapa-AFP