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Rupee Strengthens as India May Step Up Efforts to Boost Growth

India’s rupee strengthened the most in more than two weeks on speculation the government and the central bank will announce more measures next week to revive economic growth.

India is preparing to unveil an interim budget on Feb. 16, which may include steps aimed at countering the slump in industrial production and exports. The Reserve Bank of India may cut interest rates further after the budget, according to Suresh Tendulkar, chairman of the prime minister’s Economic Advisory Council. The government unveiled two stimulus packages and the central bank cut its key rate four times since Oct. 20.

“The rupee is stronger as the market expects additional measures to boost growth to be announced next week,” said Sudarshan Bhatt, chief currency trader at state-owned Corporation Bank in Mumbai. “Such measures look inevitable after yesterday’s industrial output report. The central bank may cut rates and help restructure loans of companies.”

The rupee climbed 0.3 percent to 48.685 per dollar at the 5 p.m. close in Mumbai, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That is the biggest gain since Jan. 27. The currency was little changed from its Feb. 6 close of 48.695.

Eight of the 10 most-active Asian currencies outside of Japan advanced today.

The rupee may trade between 48.50 and 49.25 in the coming days, according to Bhatt. The median estimate of 25 strategists and economists surveyed by Bloomberg is for the rupee to weaken to 49.00 by the end of March.

Stocks Gain

Offshore contracts indicate traders bet the rupee will trade at 48.83 to the dollar in a month, compared with expectations for a rate of 49.03 yesterday. Forwards are agreements in which assets are bought and sold at current prices for future delivery. Non-deliverable contracts are settled in dollars rather than the local currency.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index of shares advanced 0.9 percent today and the benchmark Bombay Stock Exchange Sensitive Index climbed 1.8 percent.

“The rupee may appreciate further if stocks too show a positive trend from here,” Corporation Bank’s Bhatt said. “Asian stock gains and broad dollar weakness are contributing to the rupee’s strength.”

The ICE’s Dollar Index, which tracks the greenback against the euro, the yen, the pound, the Canadian dollar, the franc and Sweden’s krona, fell 0.7 percent to 85.92 today.

Industrial production fell 2 percent in December, the most since 1993, after a revised 1.7 percent gain in November, the government said yesterday. India expects the $1.2 trillion economy will expand 7.1 percent in the fiscal year to March, the slowest pace in six years.

Record Low

The rupee will weaken almost 10 percent to a record low of 54 to the dollar by the end of the year as the worldwide credit crisis curbs foreign direct investment, HSBC Holdings Plc said.

The rupee may also extend last year’s 19 percent slide as employers cut jobs overseas amid a global recession, reducing remittances from Indian workers abroad, Richard Yetsenga, HSBC’s Hong Kong-based strategist, wrote in a research report today. The U.K. bank revised its rupee forecast from 45, HSBC’s Singapore-based economist Robert Prior-Wandesforde, who co-wrote the report, confirmed in a phone call.

“We expect the slower moving remittance and FDI flows to now start to show the strain,” wrote Yetsenga. “Our estimates suggest FDI into Asia could fall to roughly zero this year. While that may be overly pessimistic, the fall in FDI should certainly be spectacular for global reasons.”

Overseas direct investment in India averaged $3.1 billion a month in 2008, compared with $1.3 billion in the previous year, government data show.

“The boom in FDI is long overdue, but cannot last, given the state of corporate finances globally,” Yetsenga wrote.

Renault SA, France’s second-largest carmaker, may abandon a factory project in the southern Indian city of Chennai, Chief Financial Officer Thierry Moulonguet said yesterday. The French company said it is reducing capital investment by 20 percent.

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February 13, 2009 - Posted by | Economy, Indian Economy, News | , ,

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