The rupee on Wednesday ended virtually steady at 66.66 against the US dollar as currency traders avoided taking any positions ahead of the much awaited FOMC policy decision and US jobs report. The Indian currency managed to stay within a pretty small range with little in the way of catalysts. It moved between 66.6350 and 66.78 during the day. Overall, forex market sentiment remained bearish and displayed some signs of exhaustion after the rupee’s recent spell of impending volatility on hardening concerns over capital outflows as well as macro headwinds due to rising crude prices.
“Reopening after a long weekend, the Indian rupee traded flat against US dollar, ahead of FOMC interest rate decision, but is likely to closely track RBI’s move to allow FPI’s invest in treasury bills, and its impact on bonds…Meanwhile, expectations of a rate hike has kept US dollar firm against its peers, ahead of FOMC announcement,” Anand James, Chief Market Strategist at Geojit Financial Services, said.
Indian money markets were closed on April 30 and May 1 on account of Buddha Purnima and Maharashtra Day, respectively. The Indian unit had crashed to a fresh 14-month low last week. It depreciated by a staggering 2.27 per cent in April in which foreign investors and funds pulled out more than Rs 15,500 crore from the Indian capital markets. In the meantime, the Reserve Bank of India last week announced a slew of measures to raise exposure of foreign portfolio investors in government securities and also permitted FPIs to invest in treasury bills issued by the central government, a move which could bolster the domestic bond market and softening yields. The 10-year benchmark yield fell sharply to 7.73 per cent from 7.77 per cent last weekend.
Globally, the dollar held near a four-month high against a basket of major currencies, buoyed by the outlook for a strong US economy and rising yields amid signs of a slowdown elsewhere, especially in Europe. Crude regained some lost gound from its overnight sharp plunge globally driven by concerns that the US may reimpose sanctions on major exporter Iran, although soaring US supplies capped gains. Oil prices tumbled on Tuesday after American Petroleum Institute (API) reported a large build of 3.427 million barrels of US crude oil inventories for the week ending April 27. Brent crude, an international benchmark, was trading lower at USD 73.03 a barrel in early Asian trade. It topped USD 75 a barrel last Tuesday for the first time since November 2014.
In the meantime, after scaling life-time high, the country’s foreign exchange reserves fell by a whopping USD 2.499 billion to USD 423.582 billion in the week to April 20, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said. After an extended weekend, the rupee resumed lower at 66.75 from last Friday’s close of 66.66 at the inter-bank foreign exchange (forex) market largely weighed down by strong dollar overseas tone. Moving sideways in a very narrow range between 66.6350 and 66.78, the local unit finally settled unchanged at 66.66 against the US currency. The RBI, meanwhile, fixed the reference rate for the dollar at 66.6636 and for the euro at 80.0097.
Meanwhile, domestic equity markets ended on a mixed note in choppy trade due to some profit-taking at higher levels despite a strong start, as the benchmark index edged higher by 16.06 points to close at 35,176.42k, while the Nifty lost 21.30 points to 10,718.05. Asian stocks were mostly lower Wednesday as investors looked with some caution to the US Federal Reserve’s monetary policy call. The dollar index, which measures the greenback’s value against a basket of six major currencies, was down at 92.20. However, in the cross currency trade, the rupee maintained its uptrend against the pound sterling to end at 90.90 from 91.82 and hardened against the euro to finish at 79.97 as compared to 80.54.
The home unit also strengthened against the Japanese yen to close at 60.70 per 100 yens from 60.98 earlier.
Elsewhere, the pound sterling staged a rebound from four-month lows against the greenback following the release of better-than-expected UK construction PMI data amid BOE rate hike expectations and Brexit concerns.
The euro, however, traded little changed against the US dollar unfazed by the slowing Eurozone economy which expanded by 2.5 per cent Y-o-Y in the first quarter of 2018, a slight moderation from the prior quarter of 2.7 per cent even as the unemployment rate remained at the lowest level since December 2008 at 8.5 per cent.
In forward market today, premium for dollar firmed higher due to sustained paying pressure from corporates.
The benchmark six-month forward premium payable in September moved up to 105.50-107.50 paise from 104-106 paise and the far-forward February 2019 contract also edged up to 235.50-237.50 paise from 233-235 paise previously.