Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

The rupee at a crossroads

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

The rupee was tossed around quite a bit in the last 10 months. It dropped to a low of nearly 69 to the dollar, creating an economic crisis, before it recovered and is now at 59-60. The threat is not that it may drop once again, but that it may appreciate further and upset the economy in other ways.

Why would the rupee appreciate? Because there are expectations the Narendra Modi government will facilitate development and enable the economy to get back on course. This is what drove the Sensex beyond 25,000. But the currency market was more stable in spite of the huge inflow of $2.2 billion in 10 trading days of May.

That is because the currency market can be better managed with intervention by the Reserve Bank of India. The RBI can purchase excess dollars and build foreign exchange reserves instead of leaving it to the market to price down the dollar and encourage additional imports.

The rupee-dollar exchange rate is critical. A harder rupee makes imports attractive to Indian consumers and exports more expensive for foreign buyers. With the inflation that we had in the last three years, prices of most of our exportable goods have been marked up. To some extent, this has been reversed by the fall in the rupee against the dollar to 59-60 from 45. With the rupee correction, the competitiveness of Indian exports has been restored. Even so, exports have not picked up because the major importing countries have been in a stalemate.

Steps the next government should take

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

India’s economy is tottering, inflation is too high and growth too low. The Congress-led UPA government allowed the economy to drift during its second term. Why? Because it did not focus on real issues, failed to govern effectively and did not carry out any significant reforms.

New legislation became almost impossible, with coalition partners such as the TMC and DMK threatening to pull out (and they eventually did). On top of that, successive scams made it impossible for the government to function normally.

India Market Weekahead: Ride the election rally with some caution

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

The Nifty touched a high of 6758 during the week, part of a market rally for 10 consecutive sessions – the longest streak in five years.‎ An overdue correction set in towards the end of the week with the Nifty ending flat at 6694.

Advance-decline data suggests that interest is shifting to the small and mid-cap space where advances outpaced declines. Although we are touching new highs, the missing euphoria indicates investor caution  that is good for the health of the market.

India Markets Weekahead: ‎Ride the election rally but skim the profits

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

The market began the week on a high note after an extended weekend but could not sustain the rally due to profit booking. The Nifty was at a high of 6570 on Tuesday but the rest of the trading days remained lackluster and it ended the week with a marginal loss – at 6495 after the extended trading session on Saturday.

Although the week was marked with heightened political activity as candidates for the general election were announced, the U.S Federal Reserve had a sobering effect on the markets. The Fed decision to continue with further tapering of $10 billion and focus on interest rates, which should start rising sooner than expected, saw corrections in most markets as the dollar strengthened.

How much inflation is good for growth

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

The RBI has left it to the government to decide the inflation target since it considers it politically sensitive. The central bank will accordingly modulate its monetary policy to ensure that the government’s target is not exceeded.

Targeting inflation alone cannot be the sole objective of monetary policy, though it is an important criterion for regulating the repo rate. Even developed countries have concerns about inflation – when it is too low or too high.

Is the current euphoria in equity markets justified?

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

The third-quarter results season corroborates my view that 2014 will be a year of fragile recovery for the Indian economy. Fragile, I reiterate.

The market, however, has run up to an all-time high, with the Nifty breaching the psychological barrier of 6,500. Is the euphoria justified?

India Markets Weekahead: Markets move into pre-election rally

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

A spectacular rally in the last few days has put the market in a pre-election mode, buoyant with hopes of a stable and reform-oriented government. Led by institutional buying and the resultant short squeeze, the markets rallied more than 3 percent in the last two trading sessions – closing the week at 6526, a record high for Nifty. The markets seemed to have moved into a new territory with metals, realty, banking, capital goods, infrastructure and energy sectors participating in the rally.

 Generally, the data points for a pre-election rally are the developments on political activities and opinion polls. The economic data takes a backseat in this “rally of hope” and markets take a keen interest in electoral analysis.

Is gold a good investment once again?

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

The increase in gold prices in the last two months has rekindled interest in the yellow metal as a vehicle for investment. It was after the 2008 global financial crisis that gold became the most preferred asset, with prices doubling in four years.

Why was gold preferred? It was not so much as a hedge against inflation but as an insurance against uncertainty. When the economy is faltering and the future looks bleak, gold becomes a preferred asset.

Why the Fed is not worried by emerging market moves

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

Several emerging market central banks have been forced to react to market events already this year. Interest rate increases in India, Turkey and South Africa followed bond or currency market volatility. Argentina has endured dramatic moves in its currency, and Brazil has been forced to tighten policy.

Interest rates likely to remain high

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(Rajiv Deep Bajaj is the Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Bajaj Capital Ltd. The views expressed in this column are his own and do not represent those of Thomson Reuters)

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) raised its benchmark repo rate by 25 basis points to 8 percent at its policy review meet in January. The reverse repo rate rose to 7 percent while the bank rate and marginal standing facility rate climbed to 9 percent. This is the third hike in repo rate since RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan assumed office in early September.

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