MUMBAI: The Indian rupee plunged to an all-time low against the greenback on Monday, as US monetary policy tightening roiled sentiment and foreign investors continued to dump domestic stocks. Rising oil prices and a strengthening US dollar have weighed heavy on the rupee with a surprise rate hike by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) last week doing little to stem capital outflows.
The rupee fell past its previous record low of 76.98 against the US dollar in March to 77.56 on Monday. The fall came as Indian stocks on the benchmark Sensex and Nifty50 indices extended losses for a fourth day, falling more than one percent each on Monday before recovering ground later in the day.
Banks, metals and oil and gas stocks declined the most, with market heavyweight, the conglomerate Reliance, losing more than 3.0 percent following its quarterly results reported late on Friday. Foreign investors have withdrawn a net 1.34 trillion rupees ($17.3 billion) from Indian equities so far this year, stock exchange data showed. The war in Ukraine and resurgence of COVID-19 restrictions in China have exacerbated outflows from emerging markets like India as foreign funds turn risk-averse.
Inflation worries on the back of rising commodity prices have also soured sentiment in Asia’s third-largest economy, which imports more than 80 percent of its oil needs. Consumer price inflation in India hit a 17-month high of 6.95 percent year-on-year in March, and economists expect data to be released later this week to show that number rising beyond seven percent in April.
The US Federal Reserve last week hiked the key lending rates by half a percentage point, but also held off on signaling more aggressive measures. “After an unscheduled rate hike by the Reserve Bank of India, if India’s inflation moves higher than 7.0 percent… the pressure will be on for the RBI to act again,” forex firm OANDA’s Jeffrey Halley said in a note.
“That may give some strength to the rupee but is unlikely to be bullish for local equities.” India’s forex reserves declined for an eighth consecutive week, slipping below $600 billion in the week ending April 29 as the central bank sold foreign currency in an effort to stabilize the rupee. – AFP