Indian rupee drops on fears of continued outflows

Wed May 9, 2012 5:29pm IST

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* RBI intervenes as USD/INR gains to 54-levels

* USD/INR's record high of 54.30 could be hit-traders

* Rupee starting to look fundamentally attractive-analyst

By Subhadip Sircar

MUMBAI, May 9 (Reuters) - The Indian rupee suffered its biggest percentage fall in nearly five months against the dollar on Wednesday as investors pull out of global risky assets, sparking a new round of suspected intervention from the central bank.

Foreign investors have sold a net of nearly 10 billion rupees ($187.88 million) of domestic equities in the previous two sessions, as political uncertainty in Greece combines with continued worries about taxation for investments from overseas.

The falls prompted suspected intervention from the Reserve Bank of India when the rupee fell around the 53.80 levels to the dollar, according to five dealers.

The central bank is believed to have been active selling dollars in the past few sessions whenever the rupee approaches the psychologically key 54.00 level.

"I think the RBI will be actively protecting the 53.80/90 levels," said Hemal Doshi, currency strategist at Geojit Comtrade.

The rupee fell 1.36 percent against the dollar to 53.82/83, its biggest daily percentage loss since Dec. 12. It had closed at 53.12/13 on Tuesday.

Despite the RBI's interventions, traders warn the rupee could soon surpass a record low of 54.30 hit in December.

India remains buffeted by the twin deficits on the external account and fiscal side, leaving it vulnerable to volatile capital inflows to plug its balance of payments.

However, to some analysts, the sharp falls in the rupee are making its valuations more alluring.

"These factors make the currency fundamentally attractive and recent positive policy moves suggest that the timing to buy the INR looks right," Credit Agricole said in a note.

It expects the rupee to trade at 50 to the dollar by end-2012. The one-month offshore non-deliverable forward contracts were at 54.18.

In the currency futures market, the most-traded near-month dollar-rupee contracts on the National Stock Exchange, the MCX-SX and the United Stock Exchange all ended around 54.0625 on a total volume of $5.42 billion. ($1 = 53.2250 Indian rupees) (Editing by Rafael Nam)

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