Indian currency (INR) has depreciated close to 22% in the last 1 year. In the article we will try to study the concerns of a country facing depreciating currency, the factors that led to this depreciation and the measures government can take to stabilize the situation. Most importantly we will see if global economic uncertainty rides over all the other domestic factors to determine strength of a currency especially in developing economies. Why don’t we need a depreciating INR?
The persistent decline in rupee is a cause of concern. Depreciation leads to imports becoming costlier which is a worry for India as it meets most of its oil demand via imports. Apart from oil, prices of other imported commodities like metals, gold etc will also rise pushing overall inflation higher. Even if prices of global oil and commodities decline, the Indian consumers might not benefit as depreciation will negate the impact. The depreciating rupee will add further pressure on the overall domestic inflation and since India is structurally an import intensive country, as reflected in the high and persistent current account deficits month after month, the domestic costs will rise on account of rupee depreciation. Exchange rate risk also drives away foreign investors which in turn depreciates the local currency. Indian Rupee is currently caught in this vicious cycle; it will have to find a stable level to regain investors’ confidence. The depreciating rupee has serious effects on the external debt figures of the nation. The total external debt has increased by Rs. 2186.8 billion to Rs 16384.9 billion by the end of November 2011. Factors that pushed INR into the well
Continued Global uncertainty: Owing to uncertainty prevailing in Europe and slump in international market, investors prefer to stay away from risky investments (flight to security). This has significantly affected the portfolio investment in India. Credit rating agency’s downgrade of India to BBB- with a negative outlook, the last of the investment grade has not helped the cause. Any outward flow of currency or decrease in investment will put a downward pressure on exchange rate. This Global uncertainty has adversely impacted the domestic factors (current and capital account etc.) and caused the depreciation of rupee. Current Account Deficit: While a country like China will be more than happy with a depreciating currency, the same doesn’t apply for India. China exports more than it imports, thus a depreciating currency makes its exports cheaper in the International market, in turn making China more competitive. India on the other hand does not enjoy this luxury, mainly because of increasing demand of oil, which constitutes a major portion of its import basket. The fall of oil price to $90/barrel has helped India to fight the depreciating rupee up to some extent but at the same time Euro zone, one of the major trading partners of India is under severe economic crisis. This has significantly impacted Indian exports because of reduced demand. Thus India continues to see current account deficit of around 4.3%, depleting the forex reserve and thus depreciating INR. Capital Account flows: Deficit countries need capital flows and surplus countries generate capital outflows. India needs dollars to finance its current account deficit. Institutional investors investing in India are directly impacted by the global market uncertainty. In 2008 India had a net outflow of $14billion of FIIs and INR depreciated from 39 level to 52 against dollar. A volatile currency is never good for a foreign investor as it increases the transaction risk. Thus the relation becomes a vicious cycle, thereby further magnifying the volatility. Though RBI has intervened through open market operations to arrest the downfall of INR (managed float) but the reserves of $290billion don’t provide enough room to make a significant impact. Persistent inflation: India has experienced high inflation, above 8%, for almost...
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