Category Archives: Economics

Another Demonetization Coming?

The money changers in Arcade, Raffles place are again offering a rate better than the spot rate. The current spot is 47.20 and you could get 47.75 with the money changers.

Again the notes are all legit and there is nothing wrong that I could find.

Last time this happened, it was in October 2016 and the 1000 and 500 Rupee Notes were Demonetised in on 8th November 2017 (

I could not help but wonder if 2000 Rupee notes will soon be withdrawn and prove the rumours correct. If that happens where will Indian GDP go is anybody’s guess but till then if you are visiting to India then exchanging money in Singapore and carrying back is a profitable bet.


Rupee Doing a Bungee Jump – Time to bounce back?


The Rupee has breached all predicted floors in the past few days and has fallen like a rock.

It touched an all time low against the US dollar yesterday and traded at 68.78 loosing over 4% in a single day. The fall has been particularly sharp in this week as the rupee lost over 8% in just 3 days. Culprit in this case was the passage of Food Security Bill.

The Rupee was trading at 63.50 in 23 Aug (Friday) and with passing of Food Security Bill on Monday (26th Aug) sharply trended towards the 66 mark.

Food Security Bill (FSB) with all its right intentions of providing for the poor is not something the country can afford. The current account deficit has ballooned to over 4% of GDP and the FSB is estimated to cost 3.5% of GDP.

The looming elections in the coming year has got the ruling government to go after populist measures than trying to take some hard steps and get the economy back on track.

As I write this piece the Reserve Bank of India has come out and declared that it would be selling USD to Oil Corporations directly and this should provide some relief to the falling rupee. I would not be surprised that if the Rupee opens sharply higher and recovers all the losses of yesterday. But this relief rally would be short-lived as the fundamentals behind the fall have not changed. RBI’s step can reduce the volatility and demand in the Forex market but does not change the fact that the country does not have the money its spending.

On the flip side the fall of the Rupee might be a blessing in disguise for the economy. Exports from India become competitive and would bring in much-needed business to India. Where other countries like Japan have been deliberately trying to weaken their currency to improve exports India has this golden opportunity presented to it. Now does the government use it to the countries advantage or squander it away needs to be seen.

As an immediate measure my suggestion would be to launch a scheme to provide amnesty on bringing black money stashed abroad to India and investing them in Rupee denominated Bonds. The size of the black money in India is estimated to be 30% of the GDP as per World bank estimates. Of this 30% at least half is stashed overseas (some figures report higher numbers).

The Finance ministry could launch a scheme with 2 alternatives:

1. Bring in the black money tax-free for investing in non-interest bearing Rupee bonds. The money would be locked in for 3 years.

2. Bring in the black money by paying a 14% tax and investing in 5% interesting bearing Rupee denominated bonds.

With India’s Current Account deficit pegged at 4.9% of GDP and Black money overseas of at least 15% of GDP, this scheme could single-handedly support the falling Indian Rupee and bolster the Indian Government’s coffers. The instant demand for Rupee would push the currency up and bring in long-term capital to the country. Government could go a step ahead and allow the Bond Holders to borrow interest free against the Bonds if Investing Food or Energy Sector.

For the longer term, investments need to be made towards achieving food self-sufficiency and improving energy sector. The money collected through the amnesty scheme could be used to build storage facilities and investing in alternative sources of energy.

How much Gold do Central Banks Hold?

Chanced upon this interesting set of data from World Gold Council on the Gold reserves each country has and the percentage allocation as a part of the Total Reserves.

Gold reserve

It was surprising to see that Portugal has 90% of its reserves held in Gold whereas China has only 1.6% even though the total gold holding is upwards of 1054 tons and ranks 5th on the table. Japan also has a low percentage of 3% and ranks 8th on the table with gold reserves of 765 tons.

One should note that China and Japan own US debt to the tune of 1.2 trillion and 912 billion USD respectively. At current prices the value of Chinese and Japanese Gold is 55 and 40 billion dollars and the US treasury bills make up 35% and 54% of their Reserves.

The high US Gold Holding could be one reason why China and Japan have not increased their exposure to Gold as they would feel they are owning Gold indirectly by owning US securities. In case of a US default the debt could be paid by using Gold reserves.

In the recent months the Chinese purchase of Gold has increased many fold and it could be a attempt on part of the government to shore up Gold reserves to thwart any financial crisis.

With Gold falling in the recent days and continued central bank purchases Gold supply in the market might reduce and force a short squeeze resulting in higher Gold prices

USD INR Carry – have you thought about it?

Forex trading and carry trade go hand in hand. A few years back it was USD against JPY, then the turn came for AUD against USD and recently people have been talking about EUR against USD on the prospects of US interests remaining low and Euro zone increasing rates to reign in inflation.

The key in all scenarios being large interest rate differentials that allow cheap borrowing in one currency and invetsing in the other. The usual trend is that the currency with the higher interest yield slowly gains against the lower interest rate currency.

AUD-USD moved from lows of 0.80 to 1.05 range gaining whopping 25%, the theme was similar for USD-JPY or EUR-USD.

The Reserve Bank of India has gradually raised interest rates to 7.5% from lows of 3.5% over past 2 years and US still is at lows of below 0.5%. USD INR on the other hand has fluctuated between 44 – 47 in the same time with the

Now given that the interest rate differential is 7% and how other currencies have gained with the carry trade there is no reason why something similar would not happen with USD – INR. Indian Rupee should be strengthening against USD in line with how other currencies have performed.

Yes INR is a currency of a developing country and uses USD to pay for the Oil that it imports but that still does not completely negate the interest rate differential.

Using a simple calculation 1USD invested in India @ Rs.45 would grow to Rs48.37 in one year and seeing the trend of USD-INR fluctuating in a close 3% range there is every reason to enter the USD-INR carry trade.

What does this mean in layman terms?

1. It makes sense to borrow in US and invest in India

2. If you are earning in USD and do not have any need to hold US dollars its beneficial to remit to India and invest

3. If you want to trade then a USD INR carry looks like a low risk trade

I like deflation and so should you!!

Well the news of India hitting sub zero inflation or more technically a deflation has been making rounds. The general sentiment around this news is negative, implying that its not a good thing to happen.
Before going further lets explore the economic definition of deflation.
In economics, deflation is a sustained decrease in the general price level of goods and services resulting in an increase in the real value of money — a negative inflation rate.
Now that sounds good. I definitely want the value of my money to increase and would be happy if i could buy things at a cheaper price. So why are people not happy about hitting deflation?
Well the real worry is that theoretically deflation is caused by fall in demand and in turn results in lower demand as buyers wait on the sidelines before committing to a new purchase thereby causing a deflationary spiral.
Before going any further lets see what is inflation and how is the inflationary figure calculated. Inflation is the increase in prices of a basket of goods over a period of time. So something that cost ed 100 units of currency costs 103 after a time period indicating that their is more demand than what supply can keep up with and purchasers are willing to pay more. This is technically supposed to prompt investment to increase supply.
Let me ask you this – what is the objective of increasing supply efficiencies? Simplistically speaking – to ensure there is enough goods that can satisfy the demand. If the demand matches supply then theoretically there should be zero inflation. So what growth is really aiming at is to eliminate inflation.
Looking back at historical data prices of a lot of goods have fallen absolute basis as efficiencies increased thereby prompting growth.
One classic example would be computers – just a few years back a PC with 1/10th the power costed around the same price as today. Same with medicines.
So I think deflation once a while is a good thing. It improves the purchasing power of money.

I like my groceries, cars,  ipod’s,  jewellary cheap and the house at an affordable rate (bet you do too!!).
So feel good that we are headed for a deflation and lets hope its not a deflationary spiral but just an adjustment of suppy, demand and prices.

Immigrant Population and cost of remittance

In the new flattened world the mobility of labour is at levels never seen before in history. You would find people from Philippines working in US and Saudi Arabia and so would be workers from Suriname working in Netherlands. A general trend is people from poor or developing countries moving to the greener pastures of Developed countries to break free from poverty and lower standards of life. These workers are contributors to the home countries forex reserves as well as the improved living conditions of their families.
World Bank maintains an intersting stastic of cost of sending money from one country to another for small remittances – $250 and $635 USD equivalent.

The most interesting inference that can be drawn from these graphs is the constitution of the immigrant work force in the country of origin for the remittance. The cost of transfering money also represents the development of the receiving countries banking system.

Interestingly India appears to be one of the top 5 destinations to which money can be remitted cheaply in most of the cases, which shows the spread of Indian workforce across the globe.

A few samples from the World Bank site are reproduced below:

Canada can_1033



United Kingdomgbr_1033







United Statesusa_1033




Does OPEC cut in oil production = a Cooler world??

The straight forward answer would be to say…lesser consumption leads to lesser demand leads to lesser production results in lesser green house gasses and in turn a cooler earth.
But digging a little deeper we find that the reduction in production is OPEC’s way to ensure that the Oil price atleast staibizes, around $45 mark if not march towards its recent glory.
So if falling prices are the motivation to reduce production then lower prices should also result in an increase in consumption, albeit with a lag. The general consumer is cautious given the recent super spike in oil.
If the prices remain subdued for a fairly long time, the consumers are bound to return to gas guzzling vehicles and heavy energy use.
Though we should remember that this time around there have been substantial investments and initiatives towards alternative energies. These should start to become commercially viable in a few years time (hopefully by the time next oil spike is ready to happen).
What we do not know is that how these alternative sources of energy would impact the global warming. In a few years time we might realise that the energy harvested from the oceans impacts the ocean currents which in turn adversely effects the weather pattern thereby increasing the global warming. There could be similar undiscovered effects using the nuclear energy, wind power, hydro power etc.
So if you want a “cooler” earth, reducing energy consumption is the only long term viable option!