Source: The Guardian
In a reprise of the 1997-98 Asian crisis, India’s stock market is plunging, bond yields are nudging 10% and capital is flooding out of the country.
India’s financial woes are rapidly approaching the critical stage. The rupee has depreciated by 44% in the past two years and hit a record low against the US dollar on Monday. The stock market is plunging, bond yields are nudging 10% and capital is flooding out of the country.
In a sense, this is a classic case of deja vu, a revisiting of the Asian crisis of 1997-98 that acted as an unheeded warning sign of what was in store for the global economy a decade later. An emerging economy exhibiting strong growth attracts the attention of foreign investors. Inward investment comes in together with hot money flows that circumvent capital controls. Capital inflows push up the exchange rate, making imports cheaper and exports dearer. The trade deficit balloons, growth slows, deep-seated structural flaws become more prominent and the hot money leaves.
The trigger for the run on the rupee has been the news from Washington that the Federal Reserve is considering scaling back – “tapering” – its bond-buying stimulus programme from next month. This has consequences for all emerging market economies: firstly, there is the fear that a reduced stimulus will mean weaker growth in the US, with a knock-on impact on exports from the developing world. Secondly, high-yielding currencies such as the rupee have benefited from a search for yield on the part of global investors. If policy is going to be tightened in the US, then the dollar becomes more attractive and the rupee less so.
But while the Indonesian rupee and the South African rand are also feeling the heat, it is India – with its large trade and budget deficits – that looks like the accident most likely to happen. On past form, emerging market crises go through three stages: in stage one, policymakers do nothing in the hope that the problem goes away. In stage two, they cobble together some panic measures, normally involving half-baked capital controls and selling of dollars in an attempt to underpin their currencies. In stage three, they either come up with a workable plan themselves or call in the IMF. India is on the cusp of stage three.