The Indian rupee has seen itself decline to a new low this week, as stocks slumped following a global meltdown in risk assets. With the rising number of coronavirus cases adding to the fear and anxiety locally, the currency took quite the nosedive, while sovereign bonds also went into decline at the same time.
At the 5pm close in Mumbai yesterday, the rupee had declined by 1%, finishing the day at 75.03 per dollar. This comes after it had fallen to another all-time low of 75.31 earlier on in the trading day. The S&P BSE Sensex held at its current three-year low at close, experiencing losses of as much as 7.5%. The only recovery seen was the NSE Nifty F50 Index, which itself hasn’t seen such lows since the days after the governmental cash ban that took place in 2016.
Global funds have turned to the safety of the dollar, while in the process stocks, bonds and other currencies have found themselves being cast aside. This emulates a pattern that was actually the hallmark of the global financial crisis back in 2008, with countries and policymakers continuing their efforts to ramp up measures in a bid to contain the COVID-19 disease pandemic. As things stand at the moment, foreigners have pulled a combined $10 billion from Indian shares and debt within the month of March. That is seen as the biggest withdrawal to take place since the US taper tantrum, which occurred in 2013.
The Fragility of the Market
“Market sentiment is fragile”, said the Head of Asean and South Asia FX Research at Standard Chartered Plc. in Singapore, Divya Devesh. “We expect more INR weakness in the very near-term”, he continued. The currency had already experienced a record low of 74.5250 last Friday but has since continued to fall. Traders have mentioned that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has been utilising its record foreign reserves to stem the decline of the national currency.
This apparently saw the authority selling dollars through the state-owned banks in early trade. For its part, the RBI provided $2 billion relating to dollar liquidity through a forex swap on Monday. That is something that is expected to take place on Monday, March 23 as well.
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One good thing that came from the day is that stocks managed to recover from the lows they had experienced. This came thanks to a certain sense of optimism coming from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who some believe will add to the measures taken to contain the spread of coronavirus, as well as sooth investor sentiment when he addresses India on Thursday evening.