Tag Archives: USDINR

USD-INR @ 72.5, SGD-INR @ 52.50, what is a better investment FCNR or NRE?

Travelling from Busan to Seoul on a train gives ample time to think about the question many of you have asked – Is it worthwhile to invest in FCNR deposits?

Instead of looking at purely FCNR deposits I decided to do a comparison between FCNR deposits and the good old NRE deposit.

The analysis did become a little tricky as the SGD FCNR deposits have ridiculously low-interest rates and there is no SGD INR forward cover that is readily available in the market and I had to use USD for comparisons.

First of all, lets look at the NRE and FCNR deposit rates on offer in the market for a one year period.

NRE FCNR rates
NRE and FCNR Interest rates as on 11 Sep 2018

Using the best available rates for both NRE Fixed deposit and FCNR deposits we have the below payoff for a one year maturity and expected USD INR rates.

Depositing money in USD deposits in Singapore

This is probably the worst of all the options. The best possible rate for USD deposits in Singapore is 2% and banks charge anywhere between 0.5% to 0.7% to convert SGD to USD and back from USD to SGD. Though one would often see the advert say that there are no charges but the cost is built-in the exchange rate. With the cost of converting money the yield turns out to be mere 0.5%. So unless you are expecting a massive Singapore dollar weakness against the USD this option is best avoided. It is better to keep your money in BOC Smart saver account for better yields.

Investing in USD FCNR with a one year forward cover

The costs involved here are 0.7% to convert SGD to USD, cable charges of atleast 30S$ to transfer money to FCNR account, cost of a forward cover in terms of margin money and brokerage and finally the cost of converting USD back to INR or to SGD and remitting back to Singapore.

With all the associated costs, this option would work if you expect the INR to strengthen back and want to lock the exchange rate at current forward rate of 75. Here the interest on FCNR deposit is tax free but the gains or losses on the forward cover will attract taxes and on the pay off matrix it is not a great option.

Investing in NRE FD

The cost here is simply one time money of 0.5% to transfer money to NRE account and cost to transfer money back if one so desires.

This option gives the stable returns without any complicated transaction setup.

Investing in USD FCNR deposit without a forward cover

The costs here, as in option 2 above, are 0.7% to convert SGD to USD, cable charges of $30 to transfer money to FCNR account and the cost of converting USD back to INR or to SGD and remitting back to Singapore.

Depending upon one’s outlook for USD INR this option can give good returns. If Usd INR crosses 76 over the next year then this option gives better returns than NRE FD but if INR strengthens then one might lose any gains made from interest income.

FCNR NRE Pay off
FCNR NRE Pay Off

So what is the recommendation?

Given the increased uncertainty in global markets predicting the USD INR rate 1 year rate is nothing short of speculation. I personally do not think the USD INR will cross 77 or even if it crosses will stay at that level at the end of one year. To do the FCNR deposit for a very, very small gain over NRE deposit in the event USD INR crosses 76 does not look great from the risk reward perspective but if you really want to try then put half your money in NRE FD and the other half in USD FCNR deposits.

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Indian Rupee is Overvalued and Chief Economic advisor agrees!!

Rupee is Overvalued and should depreciate – something I have been saying for 3-4 months now but for lack of time had not been able to do some research and share with everyone my thoughts behind the my assertion.

Reading the newspaper today I read Chief economic advisor Arvind Subramanian’s view as told to Economic Times,

“I think we have to be opportunistic, when there is a chance to allow it to drift down maybe a little bit it drift down but when lot of capital is coming in intervene to keep it stable,” Subramanian had said. “I agree that there is a part of the community out there that wants a strong exchange rate, but that would be very detrimental to our exports”

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/foreign-trade/government-hopes-rupee-reflects-its-true-value-finance-minister-arun-jaitley/articleshow/46695530.cms

The rupee has been stable against the dollar but has appreciated against a basket of currencies, severely effecting the exports competitiveness. India’s exports declined for third month running in February. Rupee has appreciated 22.4% against the euro in the current financial year. On a trade-weighted basis, and after adjusting for inflation, in February rupee was the rupee was over 24% overvalued against a basket of currencies of India’s six largest trade partners.

The below table shows the performance of Indian currency against major currencies and the Rupee has strengthened against every currency other than USD and Chinese Yuan, the direct impact of this strengthening is that exports to these countries be it Software, Services or Goods all become less competitive

INR comparitive chart 2015Now lets look at the competition – Countries that export goods and services to the nations above –  big ones being Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, Russia, South Africa and the currency of all these countries have depreciated against Indian Rupee giving an advantage to competition.

INR Comparitive Chart 2015 2I think it’s a perfect time for India to weaken the Rupee while Oil remains low to boost competitiveness of exports and fill up our foreign exchange reserves. At the same time build oil reserves so that even when oil prices move up we don’t have to strengthen the currency in tandem to prevent the outflow of petro dollars.

RBI Cuts Benchmark Rates – Now What?

The much talked about interest rate cut finally happened today. RBI Governor keeping true to his character surprised the markets with an earlier than expected cut taking India on a path different from Russia and Brazil where central banks have increased the benchmark rates in the past few weeks.

I must say it’s a brilliant move by the Governor to put the ball back into Finance Ministers court and push for structural fiscal reforms in the upcoming budget. The general sentiment has been that the higher rates are keeping India from growing which overshadows the fundamental issues of red tape, poor infrastructure and wastage in public expenditure.

The sustained fall in oil prices (thank Russia for occupying Crimea) has given India the much-needed window to push through reforms without being worried about stroking uncontrolled inflation.

The question is that will this rate cut and structural reforms be enough to achieve the targeted growth? No, absolutely not. The other key factor, which should not be ignored, is the exchange rate of the rupee against other currencies. To recap the last year – Rupee has oscillated between 58 and 63.5 against the US dollar (I use USD as a benchmark because the other rates are nothing but a cross rate). The fall in rupee has been less pronounced as compared to its Asian peers like the Malaysian Ringgit, Indonesian Rupiah, Singapore Dollar, Korean Won etc. On the global front, the Yen, Euro and Pound have also dropped sharply against the USD resulting in net gains by the Rupee against these currencies as well.

While the gains in Rupee boost the feel good factor about the India story – is a sustained gain in Rupee the right thing for the Indian economy? My take is that RBI would not let Rupee gain beyond the 62 mark to keep the exports competitive. There was evidence of this when RBI was seen buying dollars in the last week when Rupee gained sharply. With a generally weaker Rupiah, Ringgit, Peso and Riel the Indian exports would face tough competition in areas like garments, IT services, food grains and other manufacturing. Also with Euro and Pound weakening the demand from European countries would decline if the goods are not priced competitively.

With crude oil staying below 50, I think RBI would target the Rupee around 65 against the USD (at-least that’s would I would do, if I were the RBI governor). That would be a roughly 5% decline from the current levels and will bring it at par with other countries with export competitiveness. A sharp gain in the currency would negate any benefit that the lower oil prices would have and I don’t think the RBI or the finance minister would want that.

We should not forget that infrastructure reforms do not happen overnight and take years to fully have the desired impact.

What would that do to SGD INR – 45 mark would remain as the strong support for the pair with upside of Rs.50, but of-course remitting money to India and investing in NRE deposits would always remain a good option.

SGD INR: 50 with SG@50?

Ever since the Prime Minister Modi came to power the feel good factor about Indian economy and India has increased dramatically. All Indians, including me, are rooting for improved Indian economy – infrastructure reforms, streamlining of tax code, improved law and order and not to forget getting back the black money stashed in overseas accounts. The expectation also is for the Rupee to strengthen as reforms kick in and help kick-start the much-anticipated economic growth.

The past few months have seen the pair oscillating between the 46-49 range and the volatility in the forex markets has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride. The pair dropped all the way to 46.5 after  the elections and bumped back up towards 49 only to test 46.5 again as the oil prices slid in the international markets (I was expecting a 45 floor as mentioned in replies to questions in the previous post).

SGD INR Dec 2014

INR has weakened against the USD to 63 as I had written earlier in (SGD INR: Post Election Euphoria) but interestingly SGD has also weakened in tandem. At one point in time the fall in SGD was greater as compared to INR and caused SGD INR to test 46.5.

Oil has fallen dramatically in the past few weeks and raised concerns of Central Banks not being able to meet their inflation targets prompting talk about monetary easing. A falling oil is good for India’s Forex reserves which has lent some support to the Rupee. On the other hand though the market sentiment remained weak as India’s trade deficit widened to one-and-a-half year high of $16.86 billion in November due to over six-fold jump in gold imports. Trade deficit in November last year was $9.57
billion.

The key events in play as I write are:

  1. Falling oil Prices and the rout of Rouble
  2. Bank of Japan’s push to achieve 2% inflation
  3. Expectation of FED rate hike in 2015

Falling oil prices can make the FED hold on to rate hike and also bring strength to SGD as the safe haven theory comes back into play. My expectation is for the Singapore Dollar to appreciate back to sub 1.30 level and Indian rupee to move upto 65 level which would bring the SGD INR back at the magical 50 mark in time for Singapore’s 50th birthday

 

SGD INR: Post the Election Euphoria

Time flies and it’s already June – I can’t believe that the last I wrote about INR was in February and whole world was speculating on the outcome of the Indian elections. I did not expect the BJP to win with a full majority given the polarisation of votes, combined with regional politics and was expecting a hung parliament. 

Based on that I had predicted that the Rupee would fall back to the 63 mark against the USD and 50 against the SGD (SGD INR: A storm in making). However, to my delight, the BJP did get a full majority. This meant that the uncertainty of a hung parliament and issues cropping up from coalition government were instantly non issues.

The markets reacted favorably to a government formed by progressive and reform oriented leaders and pushed the Indian Sensex to all time highs of over 25,000 and Rupee appreciated quite quickly to the Rs.58 mark against the USD. With many a Indians residing in foreign countries who remit money to India the obvious question was – Is the rupee headed to 55 against USD and should I transfer money to India now?

My answer to many such questions was – “the fundamentals of the economy don’t change overnight just with a stable government and the real effect of policy changes would take months to materialise and I still expect Rupee to stay over the 60 mark against the USD”

One of the first places to start when looking at fundamentals is Implied Exchange Rate calculation. Over the past years the spot rate has tended towards the Implied Rate Line (chart below: using SGD INR)

SGD INR 2014

and the calculation suggests that the SGD INR would move back towards the upward trending implied exchange rate line as the RBI is going to hold the interest rates steady – the inflation is still alarmingly high.

Other factors that would be playing against the Indian Rupee would be:

1. Crop losses due to el Nino weather changes

2. Increase in price of crude if the tensions in Iraq escalate

3. Global slow down in the background Ukraine crisis and escalation in South China sea

As I write the Indian rupee has already crossed the 60 mark against the USD and 48 against the SGD and I maintain that the INR would move towards the 63 and 50 mark against the USD and SGD in coming months.

INR – Directionless in 4th Quarter

The US debt and budget talks finally reached a resolution yesterday, the congress passed the bill and the much feared US default was averted and the financial markets breathed a sigh of relief. Interestingly the Indian Rupee has been pretty flat both pre and post the US saga.

The drop to 69 against the USD on 28 August was the low point for the Rupee and it steadily regained lost ground in September (Rupee Doing a Bungee Jump – Time to bounce back?) and hovers around 61 as I write.

I often ask myself what has really changed in the past month but can’t find a fundamental reason for the pull back. My take is that it was a technical pull back with Rupee being oversold. Yes one could say that RBI got a new Governor in Raghuram Rajan and that helped Rupees cause, but if changing governors could help the Rupee strengthen by 15% then maybe RBI should abandon monetary policies and use governors to set the direction of the currency :).

Looking at the fundamentals nothing really has changed in the past 2 months – RBI did come up with a FCNR scheme, increase the duty on import of Gold and television sets and a benchmark rate increase. The FCNR scheme is reported to attract 10 billion USD in deposits which would add no more than 3% to the foreign currency reserves. The increase in duty on gold has got the premium over spot soaring in indian markets and made gold smuggling attractive and the increase in duty on television sets has made travel to Thailand and Singapore less attractive – believe it or not bringing in television sets from overseas trips was a great way of subsidizing foreign travel.

On the policy front nothing really has changed in India and no progress is expected until after the next elections in 2014. On the global front there is still a lot of uncertainty and the fear of Quantitative Easing (QE) taper is still there. The general consensus is for no taper before late march 2014 but its an event that will happen sooner or later.

With all the uncertainty and political wrangling I expect the Rupee to remain directionless to the year-end.

63 should act as the pivot against the USD with a variation of 5% either side – a range of 60-65 would be the order. However against the SGD things should be slightly different with 50 acting as a strong magnet.

SGD-INR: Expected to maintain 38~40 range post Budget

The Indian rupee has moved within the expected range of 38.0 ~ 39.5 for the past few weeks as the Greek bailout unfolded and the Indian government presented the 2012 budget. As we near towards the end of first quarter its time to take stock of the old and new variables at play.

The Euro situation

It would be naive to say that the eurozone crisis is completely resolved. This is a temporary respite as policy makers try and reign in situations in Spain, Portugal and Italy which could spell bigger trouble. The general analyst consensus is for a weakening Euro. Any weakness in euro would be Rupee negative as it would impact exports

Interest rates in India

RBI paused the regime of interest rate hikes in its latest monetary policy statement. The tug here is between inflation and growth, the expectation is for RBI to start lowering rates in the second half of the year. Oil Prices as always would be a key here as a large part of foreign exchange outflows are used towards the oil bill. I am expecting rupee to move in the 48.5~51.5 range against USD for next few weeks.

One factor which could result in rupee weakness as a result of FII outflows is the new tax law that allows the Income tax department to charge corporations for past dealings.

Singapore Growth

The Singapore exports grew at a impressive 30% and another survey results highlighted Singapore economy to be most resilient of all Asian economies. This would attract investment flows into Singapore but the expectation is for SGD to stay around the 1.26 level against the USD.

Putting all these aspects together I am expecting INR to stay within the 38 ~ 40 range (widening it by 50p due to positives for SGD and INR negatives). The overall bias should still remain INR positive.

So my strategy would be convert at any rate above Rs.39.75 if you are looking to invest in India

The Fall and Rise of Indian Rupee: 45 days to lows, 45 to recovery

What a roller coaster ride the past 3 months have been!

The rupee was trading at 48.6 against in the US dollar on 31st Oct 2011 and precipitated to touch 53.70 on 15 Dec 2011, a 10% drop. These were the historic lows for the currency and with RBI’s policy changes the rate as I write is 50 against the dollar with RBI reducing the CRR rate and rupee gaining 7% from the lows.

Inflation, falling growth numbers, uncertainity in Europe (which by the way still exists) and political roadblocks to financial reform were stated as the reasons for the weakness. All the reasons held resposible for rupees weakness are still there. Yes, inflation has eased a bit but thats pretty much the only change.

Among numerous suggestions aired to aid the rupee was for RBI to conduct open market purchases in style of Indonesian Central bank which burnt 8-9% of its foreign reserves to stabilise the rupiah. RBI however refrained and relaxed rules to make term deposits attractive for Non Residents Indians – and NRI’s did bring in money into India.

Lets see how has rupee faired against the other currencies in the past 90 days

Surprised – right!! You did not expect to see these numbers, neither did I.

Interestingly after 3 months the INR has returned back to almost where it started against all major currencies and even managed a small gain against GBP and EUR

Against the USD the losses are paltry 2.6% which is close to long term volatility number. JPY on the other hand does come up as unexpected top winner against the Rupee with gains of 3.4%, but the real numbers are the ones shown in the last column.

Extreme volatility is what the data screams – with rupee having lost over 10% against USD and JPY and over 5% against the other pairs.

Question now would be are we expecting another such bout of swings in the market?

I would say unlikely unless a sovereign default event happens.

and how about the direction of Rupee?

I am putting my money on a stable to moderately strong outlook. The RBI has held the repo rates, the CRR ratio has come down and with a weakened currency there should be a a bigger impetus on exports which should all be Rupee positive. However the political instability and global financial turmoil could more than negate any positive factors so 49 – 51 against the USD is what I would  be looking at till end of 1st quarter.

Now NRE Deposit yield 9.25%, and yes its Tax Free!!

NRE or NRO – that was a constant questions NRI’s always had when investing in deposits in India.

NRO accounts got paid almost same interest rates as the term deposit rates for resident Indians whereas NRE rates were much lesser – almost a half of NRO interest rates (Banks could not offer more than 275 basis points above the global benchmark London Inter-Bank Offered Rate (LIBOR) on NRE term deposits). So if NRO account was fetching 9% then NRE account would get 4%. The catch of course was 2 critical components:

  • Interest on NRE deposits is tax-free whereas NRO attracts 30% tax
  • Both Principal and Interest in NRE account can be repatriated without any restriction but for an NRO account only interest could be repatriated

With the RBI move to deregulate the interest rates on NRE and NRO accounts on 17th Dec 2011 the stage was set for reform. After 10 days Banks came out and increased the rates on NRE deposits.

The comparison between a NRE and NRO deposit now is extremely compelling in the favor of NRE account.

So here is my recommended strategy

  1. Use a bank that has a favorable online remittance service to India. The 3 which I prefer are money2india.com by ICICI bank, Axis Remit by Axis Bank, QuickRemit by HDFC (you could use Kotak bank as well but I have not used their service). All the above banks usually take a 0.5%~1.0% cut from the inter bank exchange rate.
  2. Check the cost of conversion when converting back to Forex (Citibank and other foreign banks have usually charge up to 2% so avoid them)
  3. Open the NRE Bank account, if you don’t have one, preferably with the bank whose service you want to use to transfer money – get in touch with a relationship manager and negotiate a good exchange rate incase the bank has overseas branch

The only 2 downsides that I can foresee are:

  • Rupee continues the downward slide and the interest rate gains are wiped out by currency depreciation (the probability is low)
  • Finance Ministry introduces tax on the NRE account and bring it on par with the NRO account in the upcoming budget – if this happens then the yields would go down but the benefit of being able to repatriate money out of India would still remain