Rupee to hit 73 by March 2019; fiscal deficit to reach 6.5% in FY19 on shortfalls in GST collection and divestments: UBS

India is the only major emerging market having a negative balance of payments (BoP) and the pressure is expected to sustain, a Swiss brokerage said Monday, expecting the rupee to depreciate to 73 by March 2019.

Shortfalls in GST collection and divestments, coupled with state finances being under strain will take the consolidated fiscal deficit to 6.5 percent in FY19, against the government’s budget estimate of 5.9 percent, UBS said.

A country’s external balances are one of the key factors influencing the currency and weakness in it has led to a 12 percent depreciation in the rupee till now, it said.

“We revise our FY19 current account deficit (CAD) forecast to 2.7 percent of GDP in FY19 from 2.5 percent, much above the sustainable threshold. This would put India’s overall BoP in a deficit of around 1 percent of GDP, the first in seven years,” the brokerage said.

Expecting pressures on the BoP to continue till FY20, it revised its year-end rupee level estimate to 73 against the dollar, compared with the earlier 66.

“If the external emerging market risks do not ease, or trade protectionism rises further, the rupee could weaken well past our FY19 year-end forecast,” it warned.

The brokerage explained that as global uncertainties escalate, emerging economies like India which are running twin deficits (CAD and fiscal) are likely to face heightened financial market volatility as well as downside risks to their potential growth outlook.

It said after the strong start in the first quarter, economic growth will slow down to 7-7.3 percent in the second half of the fiscal.

“We believe headwinds, including tighter financial conditions, high oil prices, slowing global growth and a still muted private corporate capex recovery on legacy issues of high debt and weakened balance sheets will weigh on India’s growth momentum,” it said.

It estimated the full-year economic growth to come in at 7.5 percent, up from 6.7 percent in the year-ago period.

The note said inflation will be at “manageable” levels but underlined the monitor the risks coming from the ongoing rupee depreciation.

It expects India to miss its consolidated fiscal deficit for the fiscal year 2018-19 on difficulties on GST collection, divestments, as also stretched state government

“There is a risk that the combined fiscal deficit remains elevated at 6.5 percent in FY19 (versus the government’s budget estimate of 5.9 percent) on concerns related to revenue shortfall (on GST, divestment etc), higher states’ fiscal deficit, and the risk of populist spending ahead of 2019 elections,” it said in the note.

It can be noted that the government has committed to reduce its fiscal deficit to 3.3 percent.

The brokerage said it expects a shortfall of up to Rs 30,000 crore in GST collections for FY19, unless there is a significant increase in tax compliance or the GST council agrees with the recently passed amendments related to unallocated compensation cess to be shared between the Centre and states.

It expects the Reserve Bank of India to hike its key rates by 0.50 percent more due to financial stability concerns on rising oil prices, capital outflows, populist spending and political uncertainty.

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