Jaitley, Rajan calm Brexit-hit Indian financial markets (Roundup)

Mumbai, June 24 (IANS) Caught unawares by the UK’s decision to pull out of the European Union, Indian financial markets went into a tizzy on Friday to see a 4 per cent fall in a key equity index and a sharp drop in the rupee’s value to 68 a dollar before the authorities sought to calm investor mood.

By the time the Indian stock markets opened, it was becoming clear that Britons had voted in the crucial referendum to opt out of the European Union. This led the sensitive index (Sensex) of the BSE to open at 26,367.48 points, against the previous close at 27,002.22 points.

This was a fall of 634.74 points, or 2.35 per cent. But as the actual result came in, the markets, which had just a day ago felt that the UK will remain in the EU, were further shaken. At that point, the Sensex was languishing at 25,911.33 points, down as much as 1,090.89 points, or 4.04 per cent.

But statements by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and the Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan, appeared to have calmed the sentiments somewhat. The key index finally closed the day at 26,397.71 points, down 604.51 points, or 2.24 per cent.

This was the lowest fall in percentage terms since May 12, 2015. This wiped off nearly Rs 3.3 lakh crore in the market capitalisation of BSE listed stocks.

The Nifty of the National Stock Exchange also recouped some losses and ended at 8,088.60 points, down 181.85 points, or 2.20 percent. Forty five of the 51 scrips that comprise the Nifty ended lower, while six bucked the trend.

The markets had anticipated a “remain vote” in the UK referendum and key indices had gained a little over 0.8 per cent on Thursday.

But as the markets started plummeting, both the finance minister and the central bank governor issued quick statements.

“The government and the Reserve Bank of India as well as other regulators are well prepared, and working closely together, to deal with any short term volatility. Our aim will be to smooth this volatility and minimize its impact on the economy in the short term,” Jaitley said.

“At the same time, for the medium term, we will steadfastly pursue our ambitious reform agenda — including early passage of goods and services tax (bill) that will help us realise our medium term growth potential of 8-9 per cent and help achieve our objective of development for all.”

Rajan’s comments were similar, focusing on India’s economic fundamentals, and were particularly aimed at the currency markets — that saw the Indian rupee take the sharpest hit since August 2015 and plunge to 68.21 to a dollar.

“The Reserve Bank of India is continuously maintaining a close vigil on market developments, both domestically and internationally, and will take all steps, including providing liquidity support (both dollar and rupee), to ensure orderly conditions in financial markets,” Rajan said.

The Bank of England too made some responsible statements.

“We are well prepared for Brexit. We are ready to provide additional funding of 250 billion pound sterling. We are also ready to meet additional substantial liquidity needs if required,” Governor Mark Carney said at a press conference in London.

Just around that time, the pound had dropped 11 per cent to its lowest level in more than three decades to $1.3224. It could not recoup much.

The rupee also took a major beating of as much as 96 paise and fell to an intra-day low below 68 to a US dollar. It eventually closed around 71 paise lower at 67.96-97 against the dollar.

Taking a closer look at Indian equity markets, all the 30 Sensex scrips were in the red at one point. But by the end of the trading session, seven managed to go into the green. Tata Motors and Tata Steel were the worst performers, while Mahindra and Mahindra and Bajaj Auto ended higher.

But none of the sector-specific indices could close higher. The steepest fall was in the realty index, down 3.74 per cent, followed by the index for industrials, down 3.62 per cent, and metals, which fell 3.59 per cent, due to Tata Steel’s weight.

“It helped that the finance minister and the central bank governor reassured investors that India’s economic fundamentals are strong and that everything would be done to curb volatility,” Anand James, Chief Market Strategist at Geojit BNP Paribas, told IANS.

Vaibhav Agrawal, Vice President and Research Head at Angel Broking, said: “Global markets will continue to be under pressure due to volatility in currency and bond markets in the days to come.”

During the day, foreign funds were net sellers of shares worth Rs 629.14 crore, while domestic institutional investors were net buyers, investing Rs 114.94 crore.

–IANS

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