India’s macroeconomic threats lie exposed as it grapples with the rupee’s slide. The currency sunk to a closing low of 68.07 against the U.S. dollar on Tuesday, its lowest level in 16 months, before recovering slightly the next day. The rupee, already one of the worst performing Asian currencies, has now weakened 6.2% in 2018.
The rise in crude oil prices through this year, amidst rising geopolitical tensions in West Asia and dwindling global supply, have obviously hurt the rupee and the trade balance. Meanwhile, despite a depreciating currency, India’s merchandise exports are stumbling instead of gaining from the opportunity. April clocked a sharp decline in exports from employment-intensive sectors such as readymade garments and gems and jewelery, according to official data.
The trade deficit has consequently widened to $13.7 billion in April, compared to $13.25 billion in the same month in 2017. The value of oil and petroleum product imports increased by 41.5% from last year to hit $10.4 billion. U.S. sanctions following Washington’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and a June 22 meeting of OPEC should drive oil price trends hereon. Oil prices apart, the tightening of U.S. monetary policy has almost always spelled trouble for emerging market economies hooked to Western capital inflows. This time it is no different; capital outflows are scuppering the currencies of many emerging market economies.