India current account deficit widens sharply on higher imports

Indian laborers carry large baskets holding vegetables to a wholesale market in Kolkata. A rise in imports has widened the country’s current account deficit. (Reuters)
Updated 17 March 2018
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India current account deficit widens sharply on higher imports

MUMBAI: India’s October-December current account deficit widened sharply from a year earlier, driven by higher imports, data from the Reserve Bank of India showed on Friday.

The deficit widened to 2 percent of gross domestic product, or $13.5 billion, up from 1.4 percent, or $8 billion, in the corresponding period a year ago.

“The widening of the deficit on a year-on-year basis was primarily on account of a higher trade deficit brought about by a larger increase in merchandise imports relative to exports,” the RBI said in a statement on India’s balance of payments.

India’s trade deficit widened to $44.1 billion from $33.3 billion a year ago while the balance of payments posted a surplus of $9.4 billion in the October-December period, compared with a deficit of $1.2 billion a year ago, helped by a stronger capital account.

The capital and financial account surplus rose to $12.6 billion in the December quarter from $7.3 billion a year ago, bolstered by robust foreign portfolio inflows worth $5.3 billion during this period, the RBI said.

“The current account deficit is expected to widen in the next fiscal year 2018/19 on firm oil prices,” said A Prasanna, chief economist at ICICI Securities Primary Dealership in the financial capital of Mumbai.

“The current account deficit alone is not a big risk, but a combination of higher current account and fiscal deficit and inflation is expected to weigh on the rupee,” he added.

Prasanna expects India’s current account deficit to stand at 2 percent of GDP in the fiscal year ending in March 2018 and then widen to 2.3 percent in the next fiscal year.

Despite the widening of the current account gap, the rupee currency outperformed most of its Asian peers in 2017, boosted by strong dollar inflows, but has become one of the region’s weakest, falling by 1.65 percent in 2018, as inflows slowed.


Wealthy Gulf individuals feel more confident about regional prospects

Updated 25 April 2018
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Wealthy Gulf individuals feel more confident about regional prospects

  • “Factors like the region’s stability, attractive investment opportunities and low-tax environment are seen as the main drivers behind the growing confidence in the region’s economy.”
  • Among the most optimistic were respondents in the UAE, with 57 percent of those surveyed saying they thought the overall outlook was improving.

DUBAI: Survey finds growing optimism on region’s economies, but Saudi investors remain wary.

Wealthy individuals in the Gulf are more optimistic over the future of the region and the global economy compared with last year, and are increasing likely to invest in their own countries and other emerging markets in Asia than in western economies. These are among the main findings of an annual survey by Dubai-based Emirates Investment Bank (EIB), released on Tuesday, of the sentiment among high net worth individuals (HNWIs) in the region. 

After two years of falling confidence, some 60 percent of regional HNWIs now believe things will improve or stay the same. Fewer are pessimistic about both regional and global economic prospects than last year, while nearly 80 percent of respondents said they would prefer to invest in Gulf assets, rather than looking abroad.

The recovering oil price was a big reason for the increasing feel-good factor in the Gulf, according to Khalid Sifri, EIB’s chief executive officer, who added: “Factors like the region’s stability, attractive investment opportunities and low-tax environment are seen as the main drivers behind the growing confidence in the region’s economy.”

After falling below $30 per barrel in early 2016, oil has subsequently recovered to a three-and-a-half-year high, breaching the $75 a barrel mark yesterday for the first time since November 2014.

However, the overall optimism of the survey masks some concerns among regional HNWIs; in Saudi Arabia, 48 percent of respondents said that they saw the regional economic situation improving or staying the same, against 52 percent who felt it was likely to worsen in 2018.The survey was conducted last November and December, when investor sentiment in the Kingdom was affected by the high-profile anti-corruption campaign undertaken against some prominent business people accused of financial wrong-doing. “It may have been affected by that. We shall see what the situation is at the end of this year,” Sifri said. 

Respondents from Kuwait were even more pessimistic. None of the respondents from the country felt that things were going to improve on the investment front this year, while 54 percent said they would worsen. Among the most optimistic were respondents in the UAE, with 57 percent of those surveyed saying they thought the overall outlook was improving. On the long-term global outlook, a total of 78 percent of those surveyed across the region were optimistic about prospects over the next five years, with most citing positive economic and political stability as the reason, along with a smaller number who said oil price stabilization would benefit the world economy. The oil price recovery was the biggest reason for regional optimism. 

The geopolitics of the region was claimed as a big factor in deciding investment decisions, but Saudis were less concerned than others. Only 29 percent in the Kingdom said they were influenced by geo-political events, compared with 83 percent in Qatar and 85 percent in the UAE. 

Oil prices, economic reforms and the introduction of VAT were also factors influencing investment, as was the election of Donald Trump as president of the USA. There has been a big shift in global investor orientation outside the GCC. Nearly half of regional wealthy investors (47 percent) are now looking to Asia, 38 percent to the wider Middle East and North Africa, some 34 percent to Europe and only 17 percent to North America. The survey was conducted among 100 HNWIs with $2 million or more in investable assets.