File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )
The rupee skidded by 18 paise to finish at a fresh lifetime low of 73.76 against the US dollar Friday after the RBI unexpectedly kept the policy rate unchanged.
The domestic unit crashed below the 74-mark for the first time ever in intra-day trade on persistent capital outflows and high crude oil prices.
Markets were caught off guard as the Reserve Bank maintained status quo on the benchmark interest rate. However, the central bank warned that rising oil prices and tightening of global financial conditions pose substantial risks to growth and inflation.
It also changed its policy stance to 'calibrated tightening' from 'neutral'.
Meanwhile, RBI Governor Urjit Patel Friday reiterated that the domestic currency is still better than its emerging market peers and that the apex bank does not have a target for it.
"The rupee fall, in some respect, is moderate in comparison to several other emerging market peers," Patel said at the customary post-policy press meet.
"Our response to these unsettled conditions has been to ensure that foreign exchange market remains liquid with no undue volatility. There is no target or band around any particular level of exchange rate, which is determined by market forces demand and supply," the governor added.
A majority of the analysts and bankers were expecting the six-member Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) to raise interest rate by at least 0.25 per cent, while the developments over the last few days, especially the weakness in the rupee, had led to speculations that it could be even as high as 0.50 per cent.
Equity markets racked up heavy losses for the third straight session.
The BSE Sensex plunged 792.17 points to end at a near six-month low of 34,376.99, while the broader NSE Nifty dropped 282.80 points to 10,316.45.
At the Interbank Foreign Exchange (Forex) market, the local currency opened higher at 73.56 a dollar against its previous record closing low of 73.58.
It recovered to a high of 73.42, but failed to sustain the momentum and plunged to 74.23 after RBI's policy announcement.
It finally closed at 73.76, down by 18 paise or 0.24 per cent, marking its fourth straight session of decline.
On Thursday, the domestic unit plummeted by 24 paise to end at 73.58.
"The rupee has extended losses as the RBI monetary policy meeting has clearly disappointed the street. Market was expecting at least 25 bps repo rate hike and measures to stabilise the rupee.
"Given the sell-off in the domestic equities and higher crude oil prices, the rupee is now expected to move towards 75-76 levels in next couple of sessions," said Rushabh Maru - Research Analyst , Anand Rathi Shares and Stock Brokers.
Brent crude oil prices were trading at USD 84.36 per barrel, showing a dip of 0.26 per cent.
India's benchmark 10-year sovereign yield fell to 8.04 per cent.
Foreign institutional investors remained net sellers, offloading equities worth Rs 3,370.14 crore Friday, provisional data showed.
"Rupee was caught off guard and weakened beyond 74, after RBI surprised markets by keeping rates unchanged. Given the rising oil and trade tensions, traders will bet on exports going up, to curb further weakening in the currency," said Anand James, Chief Market Strategist at Geojit Financial Services.
Meanwhile, the FBIL set the reference rate at 73.5809 for the US dollar and 84.6975 for the euro. The pound sterling also pegged higher at 95.8877 and 64.59 for 100 Japanese yen.