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Q4 GDP numbers on expected lines but lockdown pain yet to be seen: Experts

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The Indian economy grew at 3.1 percent in March quarter of FY20 and the full-year growth came in at 4.2 percent against 6.1 percent in FY19.

Experts said the numbers are on expected lines and the full impact of lockdown will be felt in the coming quarters.

"GDP growth rate for Q4FY20 is in the expected line as growth was moving in a downward trajectory. The impact of COVID was limited in the last quarter of FY20, though the slowdown in global economic activities affected India as well," Deepthi Mathew, Economist at Geojit Financial Services, told Moneycontrol.

Experts feel the data could be revised given more than a week of lockdown in March. The GDP numbers for Q1, Q2 and Q3 of FY20 have already been revised downwards. The Q3FY20 GDP was revised to 4.1 percent (from 4.7 percent.

The nationwide lockdown in India started on March 25 and currently we are in the lockdown 4.0.

"The statutory deadline extension for financial returns hit data flow to calculate GDP. Hence quarterly and annual GDP estimates of FY20 is likely to undergo revision," a Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation statement said.

"The Q4 GDP data looks much better but there could have been some data problem given the lockdown started in last week of March. So revision in numbers can't be ruled out. It is too early to conclude the impact of lockdown on economy," Dharmakirti Joshi, Chief Economist at CRISIL, told CNBC-TV18.

"My hunch is that exports contracted by 35 percent, auto sales were down by 45 percent, which indicated that industrial activity was getting impacted in March, aviation was also shut. So the data may not have captured the lockdown period data," Joshi said.

The gross value added (GVA) grew 3 percent in March quarter 2020, while the full year (FY20) growth was 3.9 percent against 6 percent in FY19.

The Q4 growth was supported by agriculture which grew 5.9 percent (against 3.6 percent QoQ and 1.6 percent YoY), and mining which showed growth at 5.2 percent (against 2.2 percent QoQ and (-4.8) percent YoY).

"Agriculture numbers are definitely good and are also going to be good numbers given the strong rabi harvest numbers. So agri become a hope for FY21," Joshi said.

Private Consumption Expenditure growth in Q4 dipped to 2.7 percent compared to 6.6 percent in previous quarter and Gross Fixed Capital Formation growth contracted further to (-6.5) percent against (-5.2) percent on sequential basis, but Government Final Consumption Expenditure grew to 13.6 percent against 13.4 percent QoQ.

"The private consumption expenditure falling is not surprising, infact it already showed deceleration. Gross Fixed Capital Formation (GFCF) was contracting even in earlier two quarters and this was the third quarter where contraction continued. Given the headwinds facing by India, we see deeper contraction in GFCF data," Anubhuti Sahay, Head of South Asia Eco Research at Standard Chartered Bank told CNBC-TV18.

Dharmakirti Joshi also feels GFCF will go down further. "Agri, mining will be saviours, but are not enough to offset the impact which is seen in other sectors."

Indranil Pan of IDFC First Bank said given significant contraction in revenue, the government expenditure will not hold on same levels if private consumption expenditure continues to fall in FY21.

Hence experts expect the double digit contraction in first quarter FY21 GDP, but as there could be some improvement in economic activity after easing lockdown measures from May onwards, the full year degrowth could be in single digit.

"These are starting points, the data captured only one week of lockdown, so the pain is ahead definitely in Q1FY21 which will come out later in the year. We see 35 percent degrowth in Q1FY21 GDP due to already tepid growth in economy and lockdown for more than 2 months," Anubhuti Sahay said.

"India could degrew 4% in FY21 as once the recovery starts, we should see some improvement in numbers on May onwards due to some relaxation from lockdown," she added.

Joshi also said, "My broad sense is that 2019-20 like story will be played out in FY21 as well but would be much deeper."

Indranil Pan, the Group Economist at IDFC FIRST Bank expects a contraction 14-15 percent in Q1FY21 GDP and (-6.4) percent for FY21 due to stalled economy for two-and-half-month by COVID-19-led lockdown.

"Trajectory was anyway on downwards during COVID. Therefore there is definitely some headwinds on the structural front. Health problem will have significant impact," he said.

Here is what other experts said:

Upasna Bhardwaj, Senior Economist at Kotak Mahindra Bank

“Expectedly, the 4QFY21 GDP slowed down across manufacturing, construction and trade hotels, partly reflecting the sudden halt in economic activity led by the COVID-related response. Probable, some data gaps could also have made the data patchy. While the slowdown in economy was already underway, the COVID-19 related disruptions has further exaggerated the issue. We expect the 1QFY21 to record a sharp contraction of over 14 percent, with only a gradual recovery thereafter. For the year, we continue to expect contraction in GDP (over 5 percent). Accordingly, expansionary fiscal and monetary response will have to continue to aid the economy.”

Joseph Thomas, Head of Research - Emkay Wealth Management

The sluggishness in economic growth which was a feature of the numbers in the Q2 and Q3 of the last financial year, manifested itself once again in the Q4 growth rate falling further to 3.10 percent. This number fully reflects the slowdown which the economy was going through in the last two years, and it also amply highlights the importance of a demand-led recovery for sustainable future growth. This number is more important than a quarterly number. Because this number would be the base against which the impact of the lockdown and consequent demand destruction, loss of productivity and employment would mapped. What could be the fall from this level us the question that would be asked. It goes without saying that the number for Q1 of the current financial year will be much lower bordering on the negative as we get the first estimates after a month. That the core sector output contracted by 38 percent in April is an indicator of the dent which the lockdown is likely to bring forth in economic activity and the resultant numbers.

B Gopkumar, MD & CEO at Axis Securities

GDP growth at 3.1 percent is not a major surprise considering the challenges that started in March 2020 and Q1FY21 will be even weaker. This information is already factored by the market and now focus has shifted to opening of economy. The pace at which demand will be restored to normalcy is critical. There have been some encouraging signs in consumer staples, digital businesses and Pharmaceuticals. However, large ticket consumer discretionary revival will take time. Overall, businesses have drawn plans to deal with the situation and economy will improve from hereon and demand will pick up with each passing month.

Dhiraj Relli, MD & CEO at HDFC Securities

The Q4FY20 GDP number came in better than expected at 3.1 percent (11-year low) though the downward revision in the previous three quarters takes away some of that relief. The poor data on growth of India’s eight infrastructure sectors contracting by a record 38.1 percent in April led by cement, steel, electricity and coal was partly on expected lines. However this data does not portend well for Q1FY21 unless we see a fast and complete lifting of lockout with safeguards in place.

The fact that Manufacturing sector has grown at 0 percent for the whole of FY20 versus 5.7 percent in previous year highlights the extent of issues in that sector and prompts faster and thorough measures to kickstart manufacturing given that the first two months of FY21 are washouts and job creation remains a top priority in the current times. Construction is the other sector needing immediate attention. Agriculture could do well even in FY21 after growing 4 percent in FY20 and lead the sectoral growth in FY21, contrary to its negative contribution in all earlier years of negative GDP growth.

Deepthi Mathew, Economist at Geojit Financial Services

GDP data for Q1FY21 would slip to the negative territory, with the impact of COVID on the economy fully captured.