The rupee hit a new record low against the dollar, plunging well past 81.50 per dollar on Monday as the greenback rose sharply to multi-year highs against most major currencies on fears of a global recession from the rising borrowing rates worldwide.
Bloomberg quoted the rupee last changing hands at 81.5038 per dollar, after opening at its weakest level of 81.5225 and hitting a record low of 81.5587, compared to its Friday’s close of 80.9900.
PTI reported that the domestic currency fell 38 paise to an all-time low of 81.47 against the US dollar in early trade.
Interest rate hikes in the United States and an aggressive policy stance by the Federal Reserve forced a dozen other nations to do so last week, underscoring global economic slowdown risks, which has led to the onslaught of relentless sell-off in global financial markets and a dollar rally.
Later in the week, the Reserve Bank of India is set to raise rates too, but by how much has split policy watchers widely.
The dollar rally is also a reflection of investors increasing flight-to-safety bets as Asian markets risk experiencing crisis-level stress again, as two of the most significant currencies in the region have collapsed under the assault of unrelenting dollar strength – the yen and the yuan.
Due to the widening gap between the ultra-hawkish Federal Reserve and the dovish policymakers in China and Japan, the yuan and the yen are falling.
The drop in the yuan (renminbi) and the yen is making matters worse for everyone and endangering the region’s reputation as a top destination for risk investors. At the same time, other Asian countries heavily rely on their foreign exchange reserves to offset the effects of the dollar.
“The renminbi and yen are big anchors, and their weakness risks destabilizing currencies to trade and investments in Asia,” Vishnu Varathan, head of economics and strategy at Mizuho Bank, told Bloomberg.
“We’re already heading toward global financial crisis levels of stress in some aspects; then the next step would be the Asian financial crisis if losses deepen,” he added.
If the decline in the currencies of the two largest economies in the region causes foreign investors to withdraw money from Asia, a full-fledged crisis could develop.
The declines could spark a vicious cycle of competitive devaluations, a drop in demand, and a loss of consumer confidence.
“Currency risk is a bigger threat for Asian nations than interest rates,” Taimur Baig, chief economist at DBS Group in Singapore, told Bloomberg. “At the end of the day, all of Asia are exporters, and we could see a reprise of 1997 or 1998 without the massive collateral damage.”
Not just Asian currencies, the dollar’s ascent has pushed the British pound to a new lifetime low, and analysts are now calling for a sterling parity with the dollar.
The pound led declines among major currencies Monday, slumping to a record low, and the euro wobbled to a two-decade low at $0.9660 as war risks escalated in Ukraine before steadying at $0.9696.
Other currencies, too, were nursing losses, as reflected by a dollar gauge hitting a record high, with the Aussie currency touching $0.6510, its lowest since mid-2020.
“It’s a king US dollar — we’ve been seeing currencies across Asia come under pressure,” Sian Fenner, senior Asia economist for Oxford Economics, said on Bloomberg TV. “It’s adding to inflationary pressures and more central banks raising rates more than we have historically seen.”