India's battered rupee will trade not far from its lifetime low against the sky-high US dollar into next year and remain vulnerable to a worsening trade balance and an aggressive US Federal Reserve rate-hiking campaign, according to a Reuters poll.
Sinking with other emerging currencies against a strong dollar, the rupee has hit rock-bottom multiple times this year and weakened over 7 per cent in 2022.
The September 1-6 Reuters poll of 40 FX analysts expected the rupee to weaken to 80/$ in a month and remain around there until end-November, despite the Reserve Bank of India's burning through dollar reserves in active defence of the currency since May.
Although it was expected to recover slightly to around 79.74/$ by end-February and 78.50/$ by end-August, the expected 2 per cent gain over the 12-month horizon would fall well short of recouping that 7 per cent loss for the year.
Despite the median showing a marginal recovery, nearly half of analysts polled, 18 of 40, expected the partially-convertible rupee at or breaching the 80/$ mark in six months to a new record low. Fewer than 40 per cent predicted that in an August poll.
"Until the Fed puts on the brakes and prices of crude oil continue to decline meaningfully, the INR and other EM currencies will probably continue hitting all-time lows against the US dollar," said Brendan McKenna, international economist and FX strategist with Wells Fargo Securities.
"Underwhelming growth momentum and a slowdown in China are now growing on the RBI's radar screen...which could exacerbate the sell-off over the next couple of months or so."
Asked what would be the rupee's lowest point against the dollar over the next three months, 19 analysts who answered an additional question gave a median of 81, with a range of 80.00-83.34/$.
That was slightly weaker than the 80.50/$ consensus in last month's poll.
Almost a three-quarters majority, 41 of 56, who answered another additional question said emerging market currencies would fall either marginally or significantly against the greenback over the next three months.
While India's 13.5 per cent growth last quarter was the fastest among major economies it has had little effect on the rupee since base-effects were mainly responsible for the strong burst in growth.
Already shaken by higher oil prices and stubbornly-high inflation, the rupee is likely to weaken further if the Fed goes for another 75 basis-point hike at its next meeting.
That one move alone, which is likely to be followed by more hikes, would be more than the total 60 basis points worth of rate hikes expected from the RBI by end-March.
Ballooning trade and current account deficits, set to deteriorate to a decade high, were also expected to put more pressure on the rupee.