The surge in the oil price to a four-year high has taken its toll on Asia’s biggest crude importers, with already weakening currencies deepening the damage. India, in particular, faces a triple threat in the form of a massive current account deficit funded in large part by foreign capital, a falling rupee and its position as the world’s fourth-largest oil importer. Rising US interest rates are making it tougher for developing economies to attract overseas investors, while higher commodity prices are pushing up the price of imports.
India’s rupee has suffered from a succession of record lows over the past few weeks, touching its weakest-ever level on Thursday at Rs73.76 against the US dollar. “The Indian rupee is getting more battered. But they are pretty much sailing in the same boat and the problem is the oil pushing cost of imports higher and dragging the current account to even larger deficits,” said Prakash Sakpal, an economist at ING. Meanwhile, Indonesia has also taken a drubbing, with the rupiah slumping to a fresh two-decade low of Rp15,175 per dollar, its weakest level since the Asian financial crisis.
While the recent emerging market sell-off that thrashed the likes of the Turkish lira and the Argentine peso has abated, investors still worry about the ongoing risk to weaker economies with current account deficits.