India: The rupee crashes to record low due to large economic imbalances and suppressed investor appetite for emerging-market assets
September 11, 2018
The rupee weakened to a historic high against the USD in September, compounding the poor performance of recent months. This was largely due to India’s economic imbalances, as demonstrated by the merchandise trade deficit which has reached multi-year highs in recent months, and falling investor confidence in developing economies. On 11 September, the rupee traded at 72.6 per U.S. dollar, worsening 5.4% from the same day a month earlier and the weakest it has been against the USD in history. So far this calendar year, the rupee has shed 13.6% of its value against the dollar.
The rupee’s recent woes have come amid resurging oil prices—as of 11 September, Brent crude oil prices rose more than 40% compared to the same day a year earlier. This has put enormous pressure on India’s merchandise trade balance given that India imports most of its oil and has underpinned inflationary pressures. Moreover, FocusEconomics Consensus Forecast panelists expect the current account deficit to deteriorate this year. In addition to higher oil prices, investors have been fleeing emerging-market assets in recent months, most evidently in Turkey and Argentina. This follows the tightening of monetary policy in major developed economies and the erection of trade barriers around the world, dampening global growth potential. With a similar scenario affecting capital markets in India, this has resulted in outflows from the stock and bond markets, worsening the current account deficit.
Author: Edward Gardner, Economist