Consumption Hit From India’s Virus Wave Seen Denting Economy

Consumption Hit From India’s Virus Wave Seen Denting Economy

People queue up for the Covishield vaccine against the Covid-19 coronavirus at a vaccination facility in Mumbai. Getty Images.

India’s second wave of virus cases will hit the economy by prompting consumers to save rather than spend, unlike last year’s contraction that was driven mainly by supply disruptions, according to a research report.

The economic drag from the pandemic in the current quarter will be dominated by demand destruction or deferment of expenditures, said QuantEco Research economist Yuvika Singhal, who downgraded her full-year growth forecast for this year by 150 basis points to 10 percent.

“Expectation of consumption snag looks more palpable now than last year,” Singhal said. “In contrast to a V-shaped recovery, consumption redux could look more U-shaped this year.”

Apart from a switch to precautionary savings as consumers become more risk averse, Singhal also sees pent-up demand from last year’s lockdown fading and spending in rural areas slowing as the new wave spreads from urban.

India later this month will report gross domestic product for January-March, the last quarter of the previous fiscal year. The data is unlikely to reflect the full impact from the record rise in virus cases and deaths, which has overburdened the nation’s health infrastructure and led to provincial lockdowns.

The second wave’s biggest hit has been to demand, with a loss of mobility, discretionary spending and employment, the Reserve Bank of India said in its monthly bulletin Monday. The central bank has been keeping monetary policy loose and injecting liquidity into the system to lift growth from a record low.

“Though the gravity of health crisis is severe than last year, the economic impact of this is likely to be far less subdued than we saw in the first wave,” Garima Kapoor, an economist with Elara Capital, said in an interview to Bloomberg TV on Tuesday. “But of course, it does put questions on the ability of India to spring back quickly.”

By Vrishti Beniwal

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