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India market regulator seeks to halt rupee slide

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

India's financial markets regulator on Tuesday sought to halt the slide of the rupee by restricting speculative trading in the currency -- a day after the unit hit a new lifetime low against the dollar.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) said it was taking the action "in view of the recent turbulent phase of extreme volatility in the dollar-rupee exchange rate" and in consultation with the central bank.

SEBI said it would "increase margin requirements for currency derivatives", among other steps, making it costlier for traders to bet on the rupee's future value.

The decision announced on SEBI's website came after the rupee slid to a record low of 61.21 against the dollar on Monday.

It followed an order by the Reserve Bank of India late Monday to the nation's banks to stop trading for their own accounts in domestic currency futures.

The Indian currency steadied on Tuesday to trade at 60.13 rupees to the dollar in the wake of the measures but remained under pressure.

India has been the worst performing Asian currency against the dollar in the last quarter, as worries mount that the US Federal Reserve will reduce its economic stimulus programme that has prompted investor flows into emerging markets.

The Indian government is also struggling to find ways to close the country's gaping current account deficit, the broadest measure of trade, which is seen as a major drag on the currency.

The current account deficit -- which stems mainly from huge oil and gold imports and weak exports amid the global economic downturn -- hit a record 4.8 percent of gross domestic product in the last financial year.

India's central bank has been intervening to support the rupee by selling dollars and buying the Indian currency, according to dealers. The bank does not comment on whether it has intervened in the market.

But analysts say the Reserve Bank has limited room to bolster the currency with just enough foreign exchange to cover seven months of imports.

Weak local share markets and an economy growing at its slowest pace in a decade have put additional pressure on the rupee as overseas funds sell Indian assets.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130709/india-market-regulator-seeks-halt-rupee-slide