Indian rupee breaks through 40 per dollar level for 1st time since 1998
The Associated Press
Published: September 20, 2007
NEW DELHI: The Indian rupee rose to a nine-year high against the U.S. dollar Thursday amid strong demand from foreign funds investing in one of the world's fastest growing economies.
The rupee rose 0.7 percent to 39.88 per dollar, breaching the psychologically crucial 40-per-dollar mark for the first time since May 1998.
The rupee has appreciated more than 10 percent against the dollar so far this year as global investors have flocked to India, where the economy is growing about 9 percent annually and the stock market has been climbing to record highs.
Analysts expect the rupee to remain strong through this quarter, although that could hurt exporters, especially the country's hugely profitable outsourcing industry.
"It will stay around 40 for some time," said Agam Gupta, head of foreign exchange trading at Standard Chartered Bank in India.
The rupee's strength has come despite measures by the Reserve Bank of India to counter a surge in foreign money into the country that also has fueled inflation. Last month, the central bank installed several curbs on overseas borrowing by Indian companies and ordered banks to hold more cash in reserves.
But Gupta said the central bank can do little to stem the flow of money from other sources.
"A lot of inflows have been in the form of foreign direct investment and investments in stocks and bonds," he said. "Those inflows will continue."
Foreign institutional investors have bought US$10.1 billion in Indian stocks and bonds so far this year, according to the Securities and Exchange Board of India. That money is on top of a record US$16 billion India received as foreign direct investment in the last fiscal year that ended March 2007.
The rupee got a boost after the U.S. Federal Reserve made a bigger-than-expected cut its key interest rate Tuesday, stoking expectations that investors will bring in more dollars to take advantage of higher interest rates here and a bull run in the stock market. The rupee gained about 1 percent against the U.S. dollar in Wednesday's trading.
India's benchmark interest rate is now 7.75 percent, 3 percentage points higher that the Fed's key rate, and it's unlikely that the Indian central bank will cut rate soon.
Market players will likely revise their projections for the rupee-dollar rate following the Fed move, Gupta said. Most foreign exchange traders earlier expected the rupee-dollar rate to average around 41 during the October-December quarter.
That is bad news for exporters, whose overseas earnings are eroded by the strong rupee.
Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath said the rupee's strength was "a cause for concern" and the government may have to revise the export target of US$160 billion set for the current fiscal year.
Trade data released earlier this month showed exports growth have already begun to decelerate.
"It is a new situation and requires a new response," Nath said, adding the government would explore measures to help exporters tide over the impact of a stronger rupee.
Source - http://www.iht.com