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Mumbai, Nov 26 (PTI) The rupee on Friday plunged by 37 paise or 0.50 per cent against the US dollar to close at a nearly month’s low as investors turned cautious in view of massive selloffs in domestic equities and worries over a new variant of COVID-19.

The rupee erased all of its gains in the month while suffering its worst weekly loss of 59 paise since October 8 due to month-end dollar demand and on anticipation that the US Fed will accelerate asset tapering and hike interest rates around mid-2022, analysts said.

The local currency opened at 74.60 against the previous close of 74.52 and witnessed an intra-day high of 74.58 and a low of 74.92 against the US dollar in day trade. The rupee settled at 74.89 a dollar, the lowest closing level since October 28.

The dollar index, which gauges the greenback’s strength against a basket of six currencies, was trading down 0.34 per cent at 96.44 but capped its losses on worries about newly discovered strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“Rupee erased all the gains of the month following risk-off moods after worries over a new variant of COVID-19 surges. Month-end dollar demand and unwinding of carry trade in global forex markets also weighed on rupee,” Dilip Parmar, Research Analyst, HDFC Securities.

The rupee registered its biggest weekly fall after October 8, Parmar said.

A level above 75 will clear the way for 75.68, weakest level of the year, Parmar said, adding that “now, the support has been shifted from 73.80 to 74.30”.

“After a sharp appreciation of around 1.4 per cent witnessed during the month, the Indian rupee has given up all of the gains and is treading into the negative trajectory as the month draws to a close,” Sugandha Sachdeva, Vice President – Commodity and Currency Research, Religare Broking Ltd.

The greenback has been on a strong run scaling to its highest levels for the year as markets are anticipating that the US Federal Reserve will accelerate asset tapering and hike interest rates around mid-2022, with inflation running at levels not seen in decades, Sachdeva said.

Besides, concerns about the new highly-mutated coronavirus variant and lockdown fears in Europe are weighing on the sentiments.

According to Jateen Trivedi, Senior Research Analyst at LKP Securities, the rupee depreciated due to dollar strength and capital market sell-off on the back of new COVID strain found in South Africa. “Going ahead the rupee can be seen in a range of 74.75-75.40.” Meanwhile, Brent crude futures, the global oil benchmark, declined 5.50 per cent to USD 77.70 per barrel.

On the domestic equity market front, the BSE Sensex ended 1,687.94 points or 2.87 per cent lower at 57,107.15, while the broader NSE Nifty declined 509.80 points or 2.91 per cent to 17,026.45.

Foreign institutional investors were net sellers in the capital market on Thursday as they offloaded shares worth Rs 2,300.65 crore, as per exchange data. PTI DRR MR MR