Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

Not a smooth ride for the markets

Photo

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

There was subdued excitement over the Sensex hitting a record high in a special trading session on Diwali. It had taken the market quite some time to cross its previous peak in 2008. This was also the case for most other markets, although they had recovered a little earlier.

The Indian market was slow to catch up because, apart from the international conditions, there were domestic problems that affected the health of the economy.

The fundamentals of the Indian economy were weakened, undermined by a number of imbalances. Inflation has been beyond the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) tolerance limits for more than three years now. A bloated current account deficit took the exchange rate to around 69 to the dollar. The budget deficit and tax proposals vitiated the business climate for FIIs and FDI. Governance left much to be desired and investment was held up. As a result, GDP growth nearly halved to 4.8 percent.

The market had received several knocks off and on. Essentially, the Sensex dropped too fast in earlier years and climbed back too slowly to its earlier peak.

Need to rebalance RBI’s interest structure

Photo

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

In its mid-quarterly monetary policy review last month, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) made some hasty changes in the interest structure. The repo rate was raised possibly because of the rise in inflation and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate was cut after the rupee recovered against the dollar. The interest structure is still lopsided with short rates exceeding long rates. This anomaly needs to be corrected.

It is believed that the economy is susceptible to a rundown when short rates exceed long rates. A further slowdown, in any case, needs to be prevented and is quite feasible since the compelling conditions that necessitated an interest hike have been contained. There is now enough room for the RBI to restore balance.

Invisible hand of market at work

Photo

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

India’s economic situation is at least grave, if not exactly in dire straits. Growth is at a decadal low, consumer inflation is persistently high, jobs have never been as scarce, the currency is volatile and the investment cycle is showing no signs of revival. Many of these problems are a result of bad policy and global economic conditions, but several are also the outcome of a natural economic cycle.

Rupee should not harden further

Photo

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

The rupee has recovered over the past few weeks after falling to a record low of 68.85 per dollar in August. After a period of unease, the finance ministry and the Reserve Bank of India can now take it a little easy. But care needs to be taken that the rupee is not driven up further.

Speculation about the end of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s bond-buying programme in May affected global currencies and the rupee was not alone in this predicament. The announcement had created a scare about the tapering of quantitative easing. That would have dried up liquidity that the market had got used to. The Brazilian real, Indonesian rupiah, and the Indian rupee were the principal losers.

Rajan panel proposals not a cure for disparity among states

Photo

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

The report of a committee headed by Raghuram Rajan on backward states has drawn attention to development disparities among states in India. Not that these were not known or assessed before. The report offers an index for identification of states according to the degree of backwardness and their share of financial assistance from the central government.

The committee’s recommendations, even if efficiently implemented, are not likely to show results soon. The per capita income in Bihar, for example, is a fourth of the per capita income of Goa and half that of Gujarat. But it is encouraging that GDP growth in backward states has recently accelerated and, to some extent, reduced the income gap. It took place because state governments realized that growth counts politically, not because of any additional assistance from the central government.

Indian markets at risk but elections could spell change

Photo

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

It’s been an eventful September so far for India. The Indian parliament cleared key economic legislation in its extended session. The Reserve Bank of India saw a new governor taking charge. FII flows reversed trend to turn positive in equity and debt markets. Volatility in the currency market subsided and the rupee staged a recovery from historic lows. Near-term bond yields shrank and the August trade deficit came in lower as exports climbed. The Syrian crisis seems to have abated. Does this mean that the worst is behind us and things will start improving?

As discussed in my previous column, some of these actions from the Indian government and the central bank seem like quick fixes to set right deteriorating macroeconomic numbers. India’s Q1 GDP is now at 4.4 percent, much lower than expected, and FY14 GDP growth is expected to be below 5 percent. The rise in interest rates on account of the central bank’s measures to lessen currency volatility will definitely affect GDP growth in the remaining three quarters. Monthly IIP and PMI numbers are not encouraging either. Both WPI and CPI inflation are not yet stable. Headline inflation soared to a six-month high in August. Input costs for the consumer staples basket are set to rise due to currency depreciation, which could have an impact on consumption volumes. On the oil subsidy front, rupee depreciation has again increased per unit under-recovery on diesel, kerosene and cooking gas. The urgent need for a substantial increase in diesel prices could eventually have a dampening impact on growth.

Raghuram Rajan and the rupee

(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.

India Markets Weekahead: Cash is king

Photo

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

Around mid-week, the Indian markets seemed akin to a sinking ship which saw unabated selling with Nifty hitting a low of 5,168 on Wednesday, before recovering sharply to close the week at 5,471 on the hopes of concrete action by the government to shore up the sentiments and the Reserve Bank of India’s moves to save the rupee.

The street expected structural reforms from the government to tackle this crisis whereas the textbook solutions of the RBI and the government backfired. The rupee cracked to touch 69/dollar, but recovered to close the week at 66.55.

Asian financial crisis and lessons for India

Photo

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

Several economists have gone to great lengths to say that India in 2013 is not facing a repeat of the 1991 balance-of-payments crisis or the Asian financial crisis in 1997. Clearly, the crisis India faces now is unique – as most economic crises usually are.

That does not mean there is nothing to be learnt from past crises. We believe there are several similarities between the Asian one and India’s situation today.

The rupee on a crash course

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

Given the kind of volatility in financial products and asset classes that we have seen in India and some emerging markets over the last few weeks, it’s likely to be a long winter for the Indian economy.

The rupee is at an all-time low against the dollar, FIIs are big sellers in Indian debt and equity markets, the Sensex is falling and bond yields have risen. Adding to India’s misery, there’s no sign of inflation easing or interest rates coming down in a hurry. The twin deficits – fiscal and current account – are at levels that could expose the economy to a potential rating downgrade.

  • Editors & Key Contributors