Indian rupee
Rupee's been pulling ahead on dollar's weakness. But foreign fund inflows has been strong, and that's obviously helping. Image Credit: Pixabay

Mumbai: India's rupee hit a three-month high after breaking out of a tight trading band, boosted by strong inflows and expectations that the central bank may be slowing its purchases of dollars.

The rupee rose as much as 0.6 per cent to 74.5562 per dollar - its highest since March 27 - before paring gains to 0.1 per cent. The currency is up about 1 per cent for the week in Asia's best performance.

The currency rallied 0.8 per cent on Thursday, with traders attributing the strength to inflows from Reliance Industries Ltd.'s stake sales in its digital unit and the Reserve Bank of India stepping away from buying dollars. The prospect of a rare current-account surplus following robust foreign flows and low oil prices has burnished the rupee's outlook, which was the region's biggest decliner in the first six months of 2020.

"India's balance of payments surplus is one of the strongest in recent years, and we see that continuing to support the INR," said Divya Devesh, head of Asean and South Asia FX research at Standard Chartered. "While the central bank is likely to continue with its reserves building, historically, they have not targeted specific levels."

Overseas funds piled $4.2 billion into Indian stocks in the June quarter, the highest in Asia. Reliance's unit Jio Platforms Ltd. alone has attracted about $16 billion via stake sales. The investment arm of Intel Corp. on Friday agreed to pay 18.95 billion rupees ($253 million) for a slice of Jio.

Still out to pick up a few dollars

Despite the gush of inflows, the RBI has been resolutely purchasing dollars to build reserves, which have surged past $500 billion to a record. The central bank is estimated to have bought $17.2 billion in the seven weeks through June 19, according to Bloomberg Economics. Traders cited intermittent dollar buying by state-owned banks on Friday.

While accumulating reserve might slow the rupee's ascent, it is unlikely to stop gains amid weakness in the US dollar, StanChart's Devesh said. He is recommending investors to "short" USD-INR with a target of 73.50.