India surpasses Russia as world’s 4th biggest forex reserve holder

Issac John /Dubai Filed on March 15, 2021 | Last updated on March 15, 2021 at 02.22 pm
Photo: Reuters

China has the world’s largest reserves, followed by Japan and Switzerland on the IMF table.

India has surpassed Russia to emerge as the world’s fourth-largest foreign-exchange reserve holder.

China has the world’s largest reserves, followed by Japan and Switzerland on the International Monetary Fund table.

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Forex reserves for both India and Russia have mostly flattened out this year after months of rapid increase. India pulled ahead as Russian holdings declined at a faster rate in recent weeks as the Reserve Bank of India continued to hoard dollars to cushion the economy against any sudden outflows.

Despite a recent fall of $4.3 billion to $580.3 billion as of March 5 due to a decline in the Foreign Currency Assets (FCA), the south Asian nation’s forex holdings claimed the fourth ranking as Russia’s reserves fell at a steeper pace to $580.1 billion.

India’s reserves, enough to cover roughly 18 months of imports, have been bolstered by a rare current-account surplus, rising inflows into the local stock market and foreign direct investment. It touched a record high of $590.185 billion in the week ended January 29, 2021, according to RBI data.

A strong reserves position gives foreign investors and credit rating companies added comfort that the government can meet its debt obligations despite a deteriorating fiscal outlook and the economy heading for its first full-year contraction in more than four decades, analysts said.

“India’s various reserves adequacy metrics have improved significantly, particularly in the last few years,” Kaushik Das, chief economist at Deutsche Bank, said. “The healthy FX reserves position should give enough comfort to RBI for dealing with any potential external shock-driven capital-stop or outflows in the period ahead.”

In 2020, the RBI bought a net $88 billion in the spot forex market, RBI data show. That helped make the rupee the worst performer among Asia’s major currencies last year and earned India a place on a US Treasury watch-list for currency manipulation.

According to the RBI, India’s FCA dipped by $3.002 billion to $539.613 billion. Expressed in dollar terms, FCA includes the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US units like the euro, pound and yen held in the foreign exchange reserves.

The gold reserves declined by $1.206 billion to $34.215 billion in the reporting week, while the Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) with the IMF fell by $11 million to $ 1.506 billion by March 5. India’s reserve position with the IMF also declined by $36 million to $4.965 billion in the reporting week.


Issac John

Editorial Director of Khaleej Times, is a well-connected Indian journalist and an economic and financial commentator. He has been in the UAE's mainstream journalism for 35 years, including 23 years with Khaleej Times. A post-graduate in English and graduate in economics, he has won over two dozen awards. Acclaimed for his authentic and insightful analysis of global and regional businesses and economic trends, he is respected for his astute understanding of the local business scene.

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