By SamudranilAugust 29, 2013
The Indian Rupee has depreciated to an all time low with respect to the US Dollar. On 28th August 2013, the Indian rupee had gone down to 68.825 against the Dollar but the situation was somewhat revived by the Reserve Bank of India that decided to open a special window for helping state owned oil companies – Indian Oil Corp Ltd., Bharat Petroleum Corp and Hindustan Petroleum Corp.
The beneficiaries will be able to buy dollars through this window till further notice is provided. These companies, together, require about 8.5 billion dollars every month to import oil and it is expected that this will help them meet the requirements. This has had an immediate effect as is evident from the fact that the INR has started at 67 against the USD at the early proceedings in the Interbank Foreign Exchange Market. The question, however, is why this is happening. There are several reasons that can be enumerated in such a scenario:
Basic law of economics
As per the rudimentary laws of economics if the demand for USD in India exceeds its supply then its worth will go up and that of the INR will come down in that respect. It may be that importers are the major entities who are in need of the dollar for making their payments. Another possibility here could be that the Foreign Institutional Investors are withdrawing their investments in the country and taking them elsewhere.
This can create a shortfall in supply of the dollar in India. In fact, of late, the FIIs have been heading to greener pastures like Singapore owing to the greater operational efficiency and lesser bureaucratic problems that have unsettled the Indian business fraternity and hampered its overall economic growth.
This situation can only be addressed by exporters who can bring in dollars in the system. If somehow the FIIs can be wooed back, then this imbalance can also be addressed to a certain extent.
Price of crude oil
The worth of crude oil has been a major bane for India since it has to bring in the majority of its requirement from outside the country. The demand for oil in India has been going up every year and this has led to the present situation. All over the world, the price of oil is given in dollars. This implies that as and when the demand for oil increases in India or there is an increase in oil prices in the global market, there also arises a need for more dollars to pay the suppliers. This also results in a situation where the worth of the INR decreases significantly in comparison to the dollar.
Performance of dollar with respect to other currencies
The central banks across Japan and countries in the Eurozone have been bringing out a lot of money and this has meant that both Yen and Euro have lost their value. Compared to this the US Federal Reserve is giving hints that it will end the fiscal stimulus so that the dollar becomes stronger with respect to other currencies such as the Indian Rupee at least for the time being. Till now in 2013, the US dollar index has become stronger by 1.91%.
In an interview with the Economic Times, the CO-CIO of Birla SunLife Mutual Fund, Mahesh Patil has stated that the increase in worth of USD is the major reason behind the depreciation of the INR. The Federal Reserve’s decision to reduce its Quantitative Easing has also contributed to the present situation as every asset class has been affected by the decision.
Volatility in the equity market
The equity markets in India have been volatile for a certain period of time. This has put the FIIs into a dilemma as to whether they should be investing in India or not. In recent times their investments have touched an unprecedented level and so if they pull out then the inflow will go down as well.
As per a report in Business Today, the international investors in India have withdrawn to the tune of INR 44,162 crore during June 2013 and this is a record amount. This has also created a current account deficit (CAD) that is only increasing, thus contributing significantly to the depreciation of the INR.
Effects of equity market problems on investors
Now if the INR becomes weak then it will affect the investors who are putting their money in India. For the first time ever since 2012 the FIIs have been reduced to net sellers of debt based securities. The main reason behind this is the present state of the INR. The expenses incurred in hedging the unpredictable INR are reducing the yield differential that is the main area of profit for these investors.
India, in fact, is not the only emerging market where the currency has taken a hit. The situation is similar in countries like Indonesia, Brazil and Thailand. The bond markets in several countries like India are also taking a hit as the FIIs are withdrawing en masse. The exchange traded funds are also being redeemed as the global business fraternity is looking to cut down on risks.
Poor current account deficit
One of the main reasons behind the Indian government’s inability to arrest the fall of the national currency is the critical current account deficit. In the 2012-13 fiscal India’s CAD was measured at 4.8 per cent of the GDP. The government has been unable to come up with any new destinations for exporting its products and this has also hampered the growth in this sector. There are other crucial reasons here like the lack of one window for clearance purposes and procedural delays. Even areas where India has traditionally done well on this front have fared badly this time around.
Withdrawal of investors
Recently ArcelorMittal and Posco decided to pull out from their projects in India. Posco did not go ahead with a steel plant worth INR 30,000 crore that was supposed to be built in Karnataka and ArcelorMittal withdrew from setting up a steel plant in Odisha that was supposed to cost around 52,000 crore. There were lot of delays and problems related to acquiring land for the project. In fact in 2012-13 the Indian companies have spent more outside India compared to FIIs in India.
Downgrading of Indian stocks
Goldman Sachs, one of the leading banks in the world, has rated Indian stocks as being underweight. It has also asked investors to be careful given the concerns surrounding the recovery of the growth of Indian economy.
Condition of import bill
India’s import bill has been going up of late and most of this can be attributed to gold. This has also hampered India’s efforts to arrest the slide of the INR. Gold alone takes up more than 10 per cent of India’s import bill – in April 2013, 141 tons of gold were imported and it went up to 162 during May. The government took some measures that restricted gold imports to 31 tons during June but once again in the first 25 days in July the imports went up to 45 tons.
Contraction of Indian economy
The various important sectors of Indian economy such as manufacturing, mining and agriculture have seen poor growth in 2013 and this has made them less appealing propositions for the investors. During June 2013, the aggregate industrial production in India reduced by 2.2 per cent and in July 2013 the RBI predicted that in the present fiscal there would be a growth of 5.5% which was lesser than its previous prediction of 5.7%.
Future prospects of INR
In spite of all that has been said above it will be foolish to write off the INR completely and say it shall not rise from the mire. Experts are saying that the government needs to take some short and medium term steps that will help the economy get back on its feet yet again. It is only through continued efforts that the Indian government will be able to retrieve the situation. However, it will take a Herculean effort to help the INR get back to the 55 mark.
I am from Kolkata. Like any other Bengali I love my fish, eggs and bhaat and sweets but I also feel proud to be a part of the biggest melting pot of the world - India. It is true that I need to go a long way before I finally call it a day but I have come some way and am sure will travel further. Cheers :)