Thursday, October 30, 2014

>INR: An exciting range (MERRILL LYNCH)

  USD/INR: A range trade with opportunities
We continue to expect USD/INR to maintain a 58-62 range but believe there will be  opportunities to accumulate carry despite the risks from a stronger USD. Our analysis suggests positioning is less extreme, hedging activity is INR-supportive and carry remains extremely attractive, particularly for short EUR/INR. We expect  USD/INR to end the year at 61 (previously 60) despite a strong USD, and revise our end-2015 forecast to 60 (from 64) to factor in a stronger balance of payments (BoP) outlook.

  RBI’s range of tolerance: Rs58-62/USD
The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) range of tolerance for USD/INR and its intention to build reserves will be the single-biggest driver of the exchange rate over the forecast horizon, in our view. We expect it to buy US$35-40bn by March 2016 to maintain 8-month import cover. We see the 58-62 range breaking sustainably under  two scenarios: 1) sufficient FX reserves, (> 10 months import cover) which looks unlikely until 2016; or, 2) a much stronger USD than even we (as USD bulls) expect.

 ► Two medium-term positives
We expect the BoP to be INR-supportive, albeit highly dependent upon oil and gold prices. Our estimates place India’s current account deficit at 1.7% of GDP in FY15 and basic BoP deficit at roughly 1% of GDP by FY16, consistent with a stronger level of the INR. We also believe the RBI will maintain its inflation credibility with a 
likely peak in inflation reducing the need for a nominal depreciation ofthe INR. This should allow the RBI to cut rates 75bp in 2015 and encourage portfolio inflows.

 ► Risks from the stronger US Dollar
A stronger USD is a clear downside risk for the INR but our estimates suggest the sensitivity to the DXY index has fallen. While the RBI is unlikely to fight a much stronger USD, it would take sizeable appreciation to move USD/INR sustainably above 62. Moreover, FII portfolio inflows – that are more skewed towards equity than bonds – should react favorably to any RBI rate cuts and thereby be less vulnerable to a narrowing rate differential if the Fed begins hiking in June 2015 (asour US economists expect).