India shrugs off global trade war fears with world-beating GDP growth in Q1

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India’s economy expanded at the fastest pace in nine quarters, as strong domestic consumption and robust manufacturing growth overwhelmed any global trade-war worries.

Gross domestic product grew 8.2 per cent in the three months ended June, from a year earlier, the Statistics Ministry said in a statement in New Delhi on Friday. That was faster than the 7.6 per cent median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 42 economists. Only one economist, Saugata Bhattacharya of Axis Bank Ltd., accurately predicted the pace.

Reforms and fiscal prudence are serving the economy well and this growth in an environment of global turmoil represents the potential of India, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in posts on Twitter.

India’s GDP for the first quarter this year growing at 8.2% in otherwise an environment of global turmoil represents the potential of New India.

— Arun Jaitley (@arunjaitley) August 31, 2018

The economy is expected to expand more than 7.5 per cent in the fiscal year to March 2019, Subhash Chandra Garg, economic affairs secretary in the finance ministry, said in New Delhi, adding that growth was now on a steady track.

India grew by a sub-par 6.6 per cent in fiscal 2018, provisional estimates showed, as demand was weakened by the lingering effects of a note ban in 2016 and the chaotic introduction of a consumption tax.

The numbers cement India’s position as the world’s fastest-growing major economy, outpacing China -- where an intensifying trade conflict with the US has dimmed the outlook. The South Asian economy may receive a further boost from an anticipated increase in government spending in coming months, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi tries to boost his party’s prospects for the general election due in 2019.

There are risks for the economy looming. They include higher oil prices, tightening global financial conditions and a shortfall in taxes that could put budget targets out of reach. The rupee’s slump on Friday to a record low of 71 per dollar could deter foreign investors, fan imported inflation and prompt intervention from the central bank -- all of which carry implications for growth.

“While the worst appears to be behind us, there could be some headwinds to growth going forward,” said Indranil Pan, chief economist at Mumbai-based IDFC Bank Ltd. Higher interest rates, banking sector stress, and the likelihood that trade wars will weaken the global economy’s momentum are among the concerns he cited.

For now, the International Monetary Fund is forecasting Asia’s third-biggest economy will grow 7.3 per cent in the fiscal year through March 2019 and 7.5 per cent in the next. The Reserve Bank of India, which has increased interest rates twice since June to curb inflation, expects the economy to expand 7.4 per cent in fiscal 2019.

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