By Vartika Sahu

(Reuters) - Lower food prices likely cooled India's inflation rate in August, a Reuters poll showed, but probably not by enough to give the central bank scope to ease monetary policy again anytime soon.Official data on the consumer price index <INCPIY=ECI> is due to be released at 1200 GMT on Monday.

The median forecast from the Reuters poll of 27 economists pegs it at 5.50 percent for August, down from 6.07 percent in July.

The lower number is still above the Reserve Bank of India's March 2017 inflation target of 5 percent and, if realized, would be the fifth straight month that annual price rises stayed above that mark.


"Owing to the unseasonal decline in prices of vegetables and pulses, the month-on-month momentum in food inflation is likely to have cooled off," said Jay Shankar, chief India economist at Religare Capital Markets in Mumbai, who had the same call as the wider poll median on inflation.

"(But) despite expectations of a sharp drop in CPI inflation, we maintain that there is very limited headroom for further rate cuts at the current juncture."

The Reserve Bank of India has chopped 150 basis points off its benchmark interest rate since January 2015. A Reuters poll last month suggested another cut was likely in the final three months of this year. [RBI/INT]

In contrast to the slowdown in consumer inflation, economists in the poll predicted wholesale price inflation <INWPI=ECI> to have picked up to 4.01 percent in August from 3.55 percent in July.

The poll also showed that annual growth in industrial output <INIP=ECI> was expected to decelerate to 1.7 percent in July from June's eight-month high of 2.1 percent, due to a slower pace of expansion for electricity generation and mining.

Infrastructure output <ININFR=ECI>, which accounts for nearly a third of total industrial production, grew at a slower annual pace of 3.2 percent in July.

A slowdown in industrial activity does not bode well for Asia's third largest economy, especially after overall growth faltered to a 15-month low between April and June.

(Polling by Shaloo Shrivastava and Khushboo Mittal; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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