* Expansion in output slowest in two months
* Rupee, stocks down after data release
* Slowing economy seen putting pressure on RBI to cut rates (Adds details, market reaction)
NEW DELHI, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Indian industrial production growth slowed sharply in December, its slowest pace in two months, adding to pressure on the central bank to start cutting interest rates to help stimulate an economy that is headed for its slowest growth in three years.
Output from India’s factories, mines and utilities increased a lower-than-expected 1.8 percent in the month from a year earlier, government data showed on Friday.
Analysts on average had expected a rise of 3.4 percent, a Reuters poll showed. The December figure compares with November’s increase of 5.95 percent.
Government bond yields slipped, stock prices turned negative and the rupee eased after the data was released.
“I do not despair. I believe that in the month of January, February and March, there could be a revival,” Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council’s Chairman C. Rangarajan told news channel CNBC-TV18 after the data release.
With the cash-strapped government left with little fiscal headroom to encourage growth, the onus is on the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to prop up the economy by cutting lending rates. The bank’s next policy meeting is on March 15.
The notoriously volatile data came days after the government cut its economic growth forecast to a three-year low of 6.9 percent for the fiscal year that ends in March.
Manufacturing output, which constitutes about 76 percent of industrial production, rose 1.8 percent from a year earlier, the federal statistics office said.
During April-December, industrial production expanded 3.6 percent. Output grew 7.8 percent in the 2010/11 fiscal year that ended in March, below the 10.5 percent clocked the year before.
Growth in the Indian economy, which grew 8.4 percent in the year to March 2011, has been slowing as the euro zone crisis, the central bank’s tight monetary policy, and government policy paralysis discourages investment. (Reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh; writing by Frank Jack Daniel; editing by Malini Menon and Ted Kerr)