Foreign exchange reserves touched a record high of $381.96 billion as on June 16, compared $381.16 billion in the previous week, the Reserve Bank of India said in its weekly statistical supplement on Friday. Foreign currency assets (FCAs), the largest component of the foreign exchange reserves, increased to $358.08 billion from $357.28 billion in the previous week, central bank data showed. Expressed in US dollar terms, FCAs include the effects of appreciation/depreciation of non-US currencies, such as the euro, pound and the yen, held in the reserves. So far in 2017, foreign exchange reserves have grown 6% and have touched record levels five times since April, as the RBI has aggressively been buying dollars to prevent a sudden jump in the rupee.
The central bank has been buying dollars on a daily basis, both in the spot market as well as in the forward market, to limit the appreciation of the local currency, which has been gaining steadily, traders said. The rupee has gained about 5% since the beginning of the year. Among other factors, strong demand for the local currency from foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) looking to invest in Indian assets has caused the rupee to appreciate. FPIs have bought Indian shares and bonds worth around $22 billion so far in 2017. Given India’s low current account and fiscal deficits, and the advantage it offers in terms of interest rate differential, traders expect the inflows to continue in the near-term.
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The central bank has always maintained that it does not want to influence the exchange rate for the rupee, but would take steps, including intervention in the spot market, to curb extreme volatility. According to the latest available data, the RBI’s outstanding net forward purchases in April stood at $13.55 billion, up from $10.84 billion in the previous month. On the other hand, net purchase in the spot market dropped to $0.57 billion in April from $3.54 billion in March. The RBI publishes data on the sale and purchase of dollar with a lag of two months.