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Rupee Drops Toward Record Low as Virus Scare Worsens Growth Woes

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The Indian rupee slid to near a record low, beset by concerns over the fallout of the coronavirus outbreak and the impact of the seizure of Yes Bank (NS:YESB) by authorities.

The rupee weakened as much as 1% to 74.3387 per dollar on Thursday to near its record low of 74.4825, a level last seen in October 2018. Sovereign bonds declined.

The rupee has been Asia’s worst-performing currency this month after the seizure of Yes Bank, India’s fourth-largest private lender, by the central bank added to fears fueled by the spread of coronavirus cases in the country. The government late Wednesday suspended most visas in a bid to halt the spread of the virus as the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic.

India’s action came as U.S. President Donald Trump suspended all travel from Europe, excluding the U.K., and the WHO urged governments to step up containment efforts as the number of worldwide cases topped 124,000 and deaths exceeded 4,600. India currently has 60 confirmed cases.

Traders have been citing attempts by the Reserve Bank of India to smoothen the rupee’s slide in the past few sessions. The central bank is sitting on record forex reserves of $482 billion, thanks to its continued purchases in the currency markets over the past few years.

The plunge in the global crude oil price remains a bright spot for the nation’s struggling economy. The price of crude crashed more than 30% on Monday after the disintegration of the OPEC+ alliance triggered an all-out price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia that is likely to have sweeping political and economic consequences.

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