RBI Takes Steps To Liberalise Forex Flows Amid Weakening Rupee

The RBI (Reserve Bank of India) has announced measures to boost forex inflows, amid a weakening rupee. The steps range from liberalising limits and interest rate caps for external borrowings to encouraging debt flows and foreign currency deposits.

The Reserve Bank has been closely and continuously monitoring the liquidity conditions in the forex market and has stepped in as needed in all its segments to alleviate dollar tightness with the objective of ensuring orderly market functioning,” the central bank said in a statement.

“In order to further diversify and expand the sources of forex funding so as to mitigate volatility and dampen global spillovers, it has been decided to undertake measures … to enhance forex inflows while ensuring overall macroeconomic and financial stability.”

The measures announced are:

  • Limit for external commercial borrowings under the automatic route raised from $750 million or its equivalent per financial year to $1.5 billion.
  • All-in cost ceiling under the ECB framework is also being raised by 100 basis points, subject to the borrower being of investment grade rating.
  • Banks can utilise overseas foreign currency borrowings for lending in foreign currency to entities for a wider set of end-use purposes, subject to the negative list set out for external commercial borrowings.
  • All new issuances of government bonds of seven-year and 14-year tenors, including the current issuances of 7.10% GS 2029 and 7.54% GS 2036, will be designated as specified securities under the fully accessible route.
  • FPI investments in government securities and corporate debt made till Oct. 31, 2022 will be exempted from residual maturity limits.
  • FPIs, till Oct. 31, 2022, can invest in corporate money market instruments viz., commercial paper and non-convertible debentures with an original maturity of up to one year.

This comes as the Indian rupee continues to depreciate against the U.S. dollar. The domestic currency fell to a fresh record low of 79.37 against the greenback on Wednesday, before erasing some losses and closing at 79.30.

The global outlook, the RBI said, is clouded by recession risks. Consequently, high risk aversion has gripped financial markets, producing surges of volatility, selloffs of risk assets and large spillovers, including flights to safety and safe haven demand for the U.S. dollar.

As a result, emerging market economies, it said, are facing retrenchment of portfolio flows and persistent downward pressures on their currencies. India’s growth prospects, however, remain strong and resilient.

Despite headwinds from geopolitical developments, elevated crude prices and tighter external financial conditions, high-frequency indicators point to an ongoing recovery in several sectors. All capital flows, barring portfolio investments, remain stable and an adequate level of reserves provides a buffer against external shocks.

Reflecting these strong fundamentals, the rupee has depreciated 4.1% against the U.S. dollar during the current financial year so far—modest relative to other emerging market economies and even major advanced economies, the central bank said.

Will It Work?

The steps taken to boost short-end flows may not benefit right away, Anindya Banerjee, vice president (currency derivatives and interest rate derivatives) at Kotak Securities, said.

“We are unlikely to see unhedged trades on the shorter end, so the spot market will not see much benefit under current macroeconomic conditions.”

Steps taken on NRE, FCNR deposits and external commercial borrowings, he said, will certainly help, but these are steps that will support the rupee over the longer term and not immediately. “Net-net these are marginally positive moves. These very same steps could have a far bigger impact if the global situation turns for the better.”

Abhishek Goenka, chief executive officer at IFA Global, said this was the first step by the RBI, where they are trying to attract foreign flows and was reminiscent of what it did back in 2013. “We need to see how the market reacts. This move will cut long and speculative positions.”

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