ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Interest Rate Defence of Exchange Rate

While the rationale for raising the interest rate to defend an exchange rate under speculative attack is well grounded in economic and financial theories, empirical validation of the effectiveness of such a policy stance has generally been difficult and is shrouded with conflicting findings. In India, besides forex market interventions and use of several administrative measures, the Reserve Bank of India has occasionally resorted to the high interest rate option during major episodes of significant pressures on the external value of the rupee. An empirical assessment suggests that one standard deviation shock to the call rate leads to rupee appreciation in the very second month. Similarly, for one standard deviation shock to net interventions, the exchange rate appreciates gradually by a few paise over five months. The impulse response also suggests that in response to one standard deviation shock the exchange rate appreciates by about 8 paise in the second month, but subsequently the exchange rate depreciates gradually, more than offsetting the initial impact of the hike in interest rate.

Low Public Investment Impacts on Capital Market

The persisting low economic growth is having an impact on the financial sector: apart from the recent disquieting developments, the setback to funds mobilisation through public issues which began in the mid 1990s is contributing to a depressing scenario in the capital market and the secondary segment is in a worse state. This has shifted the impetus to the growth of bank deposit with no improvement however in household savings. The severe liquidity strain in the industrial sector has prompted the postponement of investment decisions by entrepreneurs. This is likely to sharply expand the size of non-performing assets of banks and financial institutions .

Entering a Low Interest Rate Regime

The economy has entered a low interest rate regime with the latest monetary and credit policy statement of the RBI. While a favourable economic policy environment has made this possible, issues concerning the external sources of liquidity and sluggish investment and growth have not received the attention they deserved. If cognisance had been taken of them, the RBI's policy response may have been different.

All-Round Financial Slackening

All major indicators of financial sector activity - commercial bank credit, capital market equity and bond issues, sanctions and disbursements of development finance institutions and foreign capital inflow - confirm an economic slow down in 2000-2001.

Little Scope for Lower Lending Rates

While commercial bank lending rates were undoubtedly high till March 1999, the scope for any significant reduction in them below their current levels is small as banks' margins have been squeezed by their cost of funds, transaction costs and burden of nonperforming assets as also by non-bank competition.
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