Governor Raghuram Rajan-led Reserve Bank of India will start using consumer prices instead of wholesale prices as the inflation benchmark for valuing the Indian rupee against other currencies, a move that could make it less tolerant of appreciation by the rupee.
The Indian rupee’s value is set by the market, but the central bank tracks its relative value, known as the real effective exchange rate (REER), as a guidepost. Although the bank does not have a target exchange rate, it does intervene in the market to ease volatility.
Late on Friday, the central bank said in a statement that the consumer price index would now be used to arrive at the rupee’s value on a REER basis. That is consistent with its move to make CPI the main inflation gauge, in a shift away from the wholesale price index.
Annual CPI inflation in February was 8.10 percent, compared with 4.68 percent for the WPI. The switch to CPI means the rupee was overvalued by around 4 percent in March, based on what the central bank said was a REER of 104.20. A REER of 100 would mean the currency is fairly valued.
Previously, the rupee was undervalued at a REER of 89.46 in March, based on the WPI inflation benchmark.
The rupee has risen 2.8 percent in 2014. It closed at 60.08 to the dollar on Friday. Rupee appreciation has prompted the central bank to buy dollars in the market, increasing India’s foreign exchange reserves by $5 billion in the week ended March 28, the biggest weekly gain in 4 months.