Rupee, rupiah lead emerging market slide on Fed fears

Mon Aug 19, 2013 4:51am EDT
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By Subhadip Sircar and Andjarsari Paramaditha

MUMBAI/JAKARTA (Reuters) - India's rupee crashed to a record low and the Indonesian rupiah hit a 4-year trough on Monday, as the expected withdrawal of U.S. monetary stimulus prompts investors to shun emerging markets burdened by weak external balances, slowing economies and inflation.

It followed a slide on Friday in Brazil's real, a currency that, like the rupee, has been hammered by investor doubts that actions taken by monetary authorities last week will prove effective in stemming the sell-off.

"Our primary concern is that the policy authorities still don't 'get it' - thinking this is a fairly minor squall which will simmer down relatively quickly with fairly minor actions," Robert Prior-Wandesforde, an economist at Credit Suisse in Singapore, wrote in a note on the Indian currency on Monday.

Growing expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will start scaling back its bond purchases as early as next month, slowing the flow of cheap money into higher yielding overseas assets, have weighed on many emerging markets.

The currencies of countries already struggling with wide current account deficits, such as India and Indonesia, are seen as among the most vulnerable to sudden capital flight and have been hit hardest.

"The market is still acting on the negative current account and fiscal deficits," said Nizam Idris, a strategist with Macquarie Capital, when asked about the two Asian laggards.

The latest blow for Indonesia's currency was delivered by central bank data released late on Friday that showed the current account deficit grew to 4.4 percent of GDP in the second quarter of the year, from 2.4 percent in the previous quarter.

"Although the current level of reserves is still equivalent to a reasonably healthy 5.5 months of imports, the Bank can't continue to burn reserves at the current rate without the market worrying about a 'crisis' scenario unfolding," Credit Suisse said in a note.   Continued...

An employee counts Indian rupee currency notes inside a private money exchange office in New Delhi July 5, 2013. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi