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A parking lot employee counts Indian rupee notes in New Delhi on August 14, 2013/AFP

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Indian finance minister says currency panic ‘unwarranted’

A parking lot employee counts Indian rupee notes in New Delhi on August 14, 2013/AFP

A parking lot employee counts Indian rupee notes in New Delhi on August 14, 2013/AFP

NEW DELHI, Aug 22 – India’s finance minister said Thursday that intense selling pressure on the rupee was exaggerated and that the currency market “panic” was unnecessary.

The rupee, which has hit record lows for five straight trading days, slumped to 65.56 to the dollar on Thursday as uncertainty about the future of the US stimulus programme added to growing fears about the state of the Indian economy.

“The panic that has gripped the currency market is unwarranted,” P. Chidambaram told a press conference.

“It is almost universally accepted that the rupee is undervalued and has overshot the reasonable and appropriate level,” he said, describing the volatility in the currency market as “unacceptable”.

The rupee has lost about a fifth of its value this year and there are doubts over whether policymakers are in control of the situation.

Global ratings agency Fitch warned in a statement Thursday that India, which it rates BBB with a stable outlook, may see its credit ratings lowered if it does not halt the fall in investment.

“Unless reforms related to growth and lowering the current account deficit are addressed, things will not improve,” said economist Devendra Pant with India Ratings, part of the Fitch group.

The rupee recovered marginally from its day’s low to end trading at 64.55 on Thursday, while Indian shares closed up 2.27 percent or 407.03 points to 18,312.94 points, snapping four straight days of declines.

Chidambaram said there was no plan to resort to capital controls and that reviving growth, which has slumped to a decade low of five percent in the year to March, would remain the focus of government.

“We are exploring structural measures to reduce the current account deficit and improve foreign capital inflows,” he said, adding that the deficit would be contained at $70 billion this fiscal year.

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India’s large current account deficit must be funded with foreign capital and the country is seen as one of the most vulnerable among emerging markets whose currencies are under pressure globally.

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