Indian rupee ends flat ahead of Fed policy outcome; shares aid

Last Updated: Wed, Sep 18, 2013 12:10 hrs

* Rupee ends at 63.38/39 per dlr versus Tuesday's close of 63.37/38

* FOMC meeting outcome key for global markets and currencies

* INR expected to touch 65/dlr if Fed tapering around $15 bln/month

By Swati Bhat

MUMBAI, Sept 18 (Reuters) - The Indian rupee closed largely steady on Wednesday as caution prevailed ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve's policy meeting outcome later in the day, but gains in the domestic sharemarket and other Asian currencies helped through the most part.

Asian markets kept their nerve, counting on the Fed for only a modest scaling back of its stimulus, though all assets were vulnerable to any hint of hawkishness from the world's most powerful central bank.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is expected to be measured with any cuts to its $85 billion in monthly asset-buying, while also seeking to reassure investors that the day of an actual policy tightening is still distant.

On the domestic front, views on the Fed's tapering ranged from $5 billion to $15 billion a month.

"I don't really think markets have factored in a very large tapering of the monetary stimulus. Any tapering will be a dampener, but if it is as large as $15 billion like some people are expecting, the rupee will touch 65," said Ashtosh Raina, head of foreign exchange trading at HDFC Bank.

The partially convertible rupee closed at 63.38/39 per dollar compared with 63.37/38 on Tuesday. The unit moved in a range of 63.04 to 63.45 during the session amid thin volumes.

The outcome of the Fed's meeting will be crucial for the Reserve Bank of India's policy review on Friday.

India's new central bank chief Raghuram Rajan is expected to leave key policy rates unchanged at his first monetary policy review on Friday, and continue with emergency cash tightening measures initiated in mid-July to stabilise the rupee, and check racing inflation, according to a Reuters poll.

Of the 52 economists polled, 50 expect the policy repo rate to remain at 7.25 percent, while 47 of 48 respondents see the cash reserve ratio, or the portion of deposits banks have to maintain with the RBI, unchanged at 4 percent.

Traders said gains in the domestic sharemarket also aided sentiment, with dollar sales from custodian banks helping.

Shares rose nearly 1 percent to mark their second straight day of gains on continued foreign inflows, while stocks perceived as defensive gained ahead of the Fed meeting's outcome.

In the offshore non-deliverable forwards, the one-month contract was at 64.05, while the three-month was at 65.26.

In the currency futures market, the most-traded near-month dollar/rupee contracts on the National Stock Exchange, the MCX-SX and the United Stock Exchange all closed at around 63.43 with total traded volume of $1.9 billion. (Editing by Prateek Chatterjee)

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