Current account deficit widens to 4.9% of GDP in June quarter

High imports of gold and oil pushed Current Account Deficit (CAD) to 4.9 percent of GDP to USD 21.8 billion in the April-June quarter of the current fiscal, RBI said Monday.

CAD, the difference between inflow and outflow of foreign exchange, was 4.4 percent or USD 16.9 billion in the same quarter of last fiscal, 2012-13.

“The trade deficit, coupled with a slow recovery in net invisibles (income and services), led to widening of CAD to USD 21.8 billion in Q1 of 2013-14 from USD 16.9 billion in Q1 of 2012-13,” RBI said in its Balance of Payments statement.

CAD had declined to 3.6 percent in the January-March quarter after touching a record high of 6.5 percent in the October-December quarter.

The government plans to bring down CAD to 3.7 percent or USD 70 billion in the 2013-14 fiscal, from 4.8 percent or USD 88.2 billion in 2012-13.

Gold imports increased by USD 7.3 billion in the first quarter of current fiscal. The imports stood at about 335 tonnes in the April-June quarter.

“Excluding the increase in gold imports of USD 7.3 billion in Q1 of 2013-14 over the corresponding quarter of the preceding year, CAD would work out to USD 14.5 billion, which translates into 3.2 percent of GDP,” the Reserve Bank said.

RBI said there was a small draw down on country’s foreign exchange reserves to finance the CAD.

“On BoP basis, there was a slight draw down in foreign exchange reserves of USD 0.3 billion in Q1 of 2013-14 as against an accretion of USD 0.5 billion in Q1 of 2012-13,” it said.

During the quarter, while exports declined by 1.5 percent, imports recorded an increase of 4.7 percent. The trade deficit widened further to USD 50.5 billion in Q1 of 2013-14, from USD 43.8 billion a year ago, it said.

The RBI data showed capital account, which includes FDI, portfolio investment and overseas borrowing by companies, had a surplus of USD 20.8 billion in the June quarter. This was higher than USD 17.8 billion surplus in the March quarter.

Net foreign direct investment (FDI) surged to USD 6.5 billion in Q1 of 2013-14, from USD 3.8 billion in Q1 of 2012-13.

Net portfolio investment registered a marginal outflow of USD 0.2 billion as compared to outflow of USD 2.0 billion in Q1 of 2012-13, primarily led by the debt component of FII investment.

“Outflow of portfolio investment occurred essentially from the third week of May 2013 after the US Fed indicated the possible tapering of quantitative easing,” RBI said.

Although the capital inflow was in surplus, higher trade deficit led to a draw down in the forex reserves. India’s forex reserves currently stands at over USD 270 billion.

Petrol, oil, lubricant import rose to USD 42 billion in Q1 of current fiscal, from USD 39.4 billion in the same period last year.

The initiatives taken by the government and the RBI to contain import of gold and encourage flow of foreign funds into the country is likely to ease pressure on CAD in the coming quarters.

High CAD has put pressure on Indian currency, which touched a low of 68.86 to a dollar on August 28. It closed at Rs 62.60 today.

Meanwhile, the data on India’s international investment position showed that net claims of non-residents on India decreased by USD 12.5 billion over the previous quarter to USD 296.9 billion as at end-June 2013.

The foreign-owned assets in India decreased by USD 25.7 billion over the previous quarter to USD 731.5 billion as of June end this year.