Banking News

rbi: RBI may revisit its toolkit to manage liquidity at banks after sudden surge


Following an unexpected improvement in banking system liquidity, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) may have to redraw its calculations and potentially dust off certain tools to deftly manage funds in the banking system while shielding the rupee from excessive volatility.

A higher-than-budgeted surplus transfer by the RBI to the government, and the central bank’s move to withdraw ₹2,000 notes from circulation have substantially altered the liquidity landscape for the banking system.

Both announcements, made one after the other by the RBI on Friday evening, will result in an improvement in banking system liquidity, albeit in different ways.

The surplus transfer of ₹87,416 crore by the RBI to the government will add to durable liquidity in the banking system, while deposits of ₹2,000 notes with banks will lead to a transient increase in funds.

“Eventually, the RBI will have to decide the optimal amount of permanent liquidity it wants to keep in the system, which is in line with its inflation objective, and provide it via the two main sources (dollar and g-sec purchases),” HSBC’s economists Pranjul Bhandari and Aayushi Chaudhary wrote.

While it is uncertain as to how much of the ₹3.6 lakh crore worth of ₹2,000 notes will flow back to banks, analysts broadly predicted a range of ₹50,000 crore to ₹1 lakh crore.

OPEN MARKET OPERATIONSWith banking system liquidity suddenly receiving a boost – following a month of tighter funding conditions – a conclusion amongst analysts is that the need for the RBI to purchase government bonds via open market operations (OMOs) reduces significantly.

Purchases of government bonds are a tool used by the RBI to infuse durable liquidity into the banking system. Prior to the RBI’s announcements on Friday, bond traders were largely confident of the RBI commencing on such operations around October. Now, the central bank is seen delaying its bond buying. Fewer bond purchases by the RBI could weaken sentiment in the sovereign debt market, which is faced with a record-large government gross borrowing program of ₹15.4 lakh crore.

“We estimate ₹0.7-0.9 trillion of durable rise in system liquidity, which in turn reduces but does not eliminate the need for the RBI to do OMOs in 2HFY24 (October-March),” Emkay Global’s economist Madhavi Arora said.


Standard Chartered Bank’s economist Anubhuti Sahay said that a key determinant of the RBI’s liquidity choices would be the behaviour of the rupee versus the US dollar.

“If RBI keeps on accumulating FX reserves, it’s another round of durable liquidity injection. But suppose the dollar strengthens and the RBI has to intervene on the other side, the liquidity would be absorbed by the RBI as they sell dollars in the market,” she said.

Based on the extent of enhancement in liquidity, some traders said that a tool that the RBI could consider using was an FX swap under which it would sell dollars and immediately contracts to buy them back at a future date. The central bank has not used FX swap operations since March 2022.

Such an ‘sell-buy’ swap would not only drain out extra liquidity for the tenure of the contract but also push up dollar-rupee forward premia, which have fallen sharply of late.

The dollar-rupee forward premia represent the interest rate differential between India and the US. A fall in Indian money market rates following improved liquidity has narrowed the differential further.


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