Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

Raghuram Rajan and the rupee

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

With Raghuram Rajan taking over as the governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), it’ll make for a change in the central bank’s policy perception.

His predecessor Duvvuri Subbarao used conventional methods and got no results. It is likely Rajan will opt for innovative means and his initial steps are already showing results. It’s evident that the complex problems of today demand out-of-the-box solutions.

The rupee, beaten down by inflation and tortured by the current account deficit, had become weaker over the years. It got worse when the U.S. Federal Reserve announced tapering of quantitative easing that would have reduced (if not reversed) FII investment and made it difficult to fund the current account deficit.

When the rupee crossed 60 to the dollar and showed no signs of steadying, the RBI responded with its traditional method of squeezing liquidity to check speculation. It then tried to reduce the outflow of dollars due to overseas investments by Indian companies and individuals spending abroad. The result was a further slide, taking the rupee close to life lows of 70 to the dollar. That’s conventional wisdom for you.

Focus should be inflation, not just stemming rupee’s fall

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Indian stocks have been battered over the past few sessions. The market condition is not unexpected, thanks to over-action by policymakers and over-reaction by stock investors.

The apparent anxiety on the part of the government was that even if the fall of the rupee was inevitable, left entirely to the market, speculative activity would push the economy into a crisis. Presumably, the rupee at 60 to the dollar was the benchmark for intervention.

A bumper crop may energize Indian industry

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Industrial growth in India in 2012 was less than a percent and data from April and May this year doesn’t show a lot of promise. The reluctance of industry to grow has been the reason for GDP growth dropping to a disappointing 5 percent, raising doubts about whether the India story has come to an end. That may be an extreme view considering that even the best performers, such as China, are having problems.

But there is a glimmer of hope. Monsoon rains have been above average this year and a bumper crop is expected. Agriculture contributes to around 20 percent of India’s GDP and even an 8 percent increase in agricultural production will at best improve GDP growth by a percent. But agriculture does have an impact on industry and both together can make a perceptible difference.

Sooner the better for RBI to unwind grip on liquidity

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Reuters)

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) wasn’t expected to do anything new at its policy review on Tuesday and it did exactly that. But the markets still reacted adversely. The stock market moved in consort with the rupee with the Sensex falling 245 points.

It is generally true that markets overreact, more so in India, partly because market sentiment is affected far too quickly. What evoked these sentiments was the undue concern expressed by RBI Governor Duvvuri Subbarao about external uncertainties, more so about quantitative easing by the U.S. Federal Reserve and food inflation in India.

Why the rupee is linked to jobs in the U.S.

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

It appears odd that an increase in job offers in the United States should pull the rupee down in India. After all, any improvement in the U.S. economy should benefit the rest of the world. It means an increase in imports by the U.S. and exports by other countries. But there is more to it than that.

Will the rupee fall further?

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

On May 31, the rupee fell to an 11-month low of 56.51 to the dollar. It wasn’t the only currency to suffer a loss. Most currencies depreciated during the month; some more than the others.

The appreciation of the dollar reflects an improvement in the performance of the U.S. economy and partly the related possibility of the phasing out of quantitative easing (QE) by the U.S. Federal Reserve. The latter would make the dollar even scarcer.

The threat of a junk rating

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Credit ratings by agencies are never very objective and their long-term outlook is also seldom accurate. Sovereign ratings, in particular those which are not solicited, are generally unreliable and often biased. But rating agencies do draw attention to critical issues that should not be ignored.

Standard & Poor’s announced on Friday that it had maintained India’s rating at BBB- with a long-term negative outlook. This assessment is based on three major considerations. The budget deficit, government debt and the current account deficit (CAD) are too high.

Why is RBI chief Subbarao so cynical?

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

In its policy review on May 3, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) did bring down the repo rate by 25 basis points but it also presented a gloomy outlook on growth and inflation which left the stock markets cold. The Sensex, which had surged in anticipation, fell 160 points. What makes the RBI so negative when even rating agencies are inclined to accept the emergence of green shoots?

RBI Governor Duvvuri Subbarao has himself spelled out the risks. “Upside risks are still significant in view of sectoral demand supply imbalances, the ongoing correction in administered prices and pressures stemming from increases in minimum support prices,” he said. Is Subbarao’s risk assessment genuine or has it been exaggerated to put the government under pressure?

Need to bring repo rate in line with inflation

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

For nearly three years now, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) monetary policy has had a single target. The presumption is that only when inflation is below the tolerance limit can the interest rate be made normal.

The last time the repo rate was reduced was on March 19 when it was cut by 0.25 percent, a change understandably ignored by commercial banks and other financial institutions. With the repo rate at 7.5 percent and inflation down to 5.9 percent, the market expects the RBI to cut the repo rate further at its next policy review on May 3.

Gold not a good investment for now

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Since November, the price of gold has been unstable but in April, its decline was precipitated. What is surprising is not the fall itself but its speed. In just two sessions, gold prices dropped 13 percent in the steepest fall in 33 years. It wasn’t gold alone that got caught in the bear grip. Prices of other commodities such as silver, crude oil, copper and so on also declined, but not as sharply.

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