The slowdown that began among India's shadow banks is spreading. Sectors that had come to depend on credit from what in India are called non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) are posting awful numbers. Insurance is slowing and real estate is troubled. The automobile sector -- which contributes half of India's manufacturing output -- is shrinking as stressed shadow banks prioritise survival above lending growth.
Naturally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government is worried. But it, and the Reserve Bank of India, should avoid any attempt to succor the shadow-banking sector with liquidity. Giving NBFCs the false appearance of health would only increase, not decrease the chances of a systemic crisis.
Speaking to Bloomberg News recently, RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das warned that the central bank sees "some signs of fragility," particularly in shadow banks that are exposed to the housing sector. The question is what to do about it. On the one hand, Das sought to reassure investors that the RBI would prevent another large NBFC from collapsing. (The current crisis was set off when highly connected Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd defaulted last year.) On the other hand, he said, "If NBFCs have undertaken certain governance practice and certain ways of function and they have to a price for it, they will have to pay a price for it."...................BS