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Indian rupee on slippery slope for a year at least - Reuters poll

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By Reuters
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By Tushar Goenka

BENGALURU (Reuters) – The Indian rupee will not recover lost ground in the coming year, according to a Reuters poll of currency strategists who are more pessimistic than last month amid doubts over any kind of trade truce between the United States and China.

Most emerging markets currencies have depreciated against the U.S. dollar, hurt by the tit-for-tat trade war between the world’s two largest economies, and there are scant signs of a resolution anytime soon.

Also weighing on the currency’s outlook, the Reserve Bank of India has cut its key interest rate by 135 basis points so far this year to support a slowing economy. It is expected to cut the repo rate by another 25 basis points to 4.90% on Thursday.[RBI/INT]

“Global trade talks are turning topsy-turvy, a lot will depend on how that plays out. Domestically, the tide has turned rough for the INR, led by tapering of domestic growth optimism and fiscal worries – all weighing on the rupee’s way forward,” Madhavi Arora, lead economist, FX and rates at Edelweiss Securities said.

“After December’s rate cut … reforms in the banking sector and strong infrastructure investments are needed in addition with monetary stimulus to help growth and the rupee.”

The Dec. 2-4 poll, taken before the monetary policy committee’s announcement due later on Thursday, showed the currency would weaken 0.6% to 72.00 per dollar in a year from 71.57 where it was trading around on Wednesday.

The year ahead outlook was the most the pessimistic for the rupee since October.

Over the coming year, 23 of 51 strategists expected the rupee to breach 72.40 against the dollar – its weakest trade this year. Six of those expected it to weaken beyond its lifetime low of 74.48 per dollar.

But a few analysts argued the rupee’s weakness was a deliberate attempt by the RBI to boost exports that have been on a downward trend.

“There is a conscious effort by the RBI to provide a depreciation bias to the rupee. That could probably become a new norm for at least sometime, so the export sector slightly benefits,” said Upasna Bhardwaj, senior economist at Kotak Mahindra Bank.

“The pace at which the RBI has been buying dollars clearly signals a new policy the RBI is adopting. Its bias for a relatively weaker currency will determine its direction. This is an unsaid policy obviously, but through actions like dollar purchases it is suggestive of that.”

(Polling by Anisha Sheth and Shaloo Shrivastava; Editing by Ross Finley and Alison Williams)