India Overstated Exports by $9 Billion Due to ‘Double Counting’

India’s commerce ministry said it overstated merchandise exports by $9 billion in the eight months through November because of “misclassification and errors” in computing overseas sales.

“Notwithstanding the misclassification, there were errors in double counting and all sorts of things which inflated exports by about $9 billion,” Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar told reporters in New Delhi yesterday. Overseas sales in the April-to-November period now stands at $192.7 billion, Khullar said.

India’s monthly export growth has averaged about 44 percent since April even as Europe’s debt crisis and a faltering U.S. recovery reduced global consumer demand, prompting economists to question the quality of the data. Today’s revision explains “in part the weakening of the rupee,” Asia’s worst-performing currency this year, said Jay Shankar, Mumbai-based economist at Religare Capital Markets Ltd.

“The global economy isn’t doing well, so it was hard to understand how India was posting such fantastic export numbers,” said Biswajit Dhar, director of New Delhi-based Research and Information System for Developing Countries. “There were reasons to believe something was going wrong.”

The rupee weakened 0.6 percent to 52.04 per dollar in Mumbai yesterday, extending its decline this year to 14.1 percent. The BSE India Sensitive Index, which has lost a fifth of its value in 2011, dropped 1.7 percent. The yield on the 8.79 percent bonds due November 2021 rose two basis points, or 0.02 percentage point, to 8.54 percent.

Waning Demand

India’s exports in November were $22.3 billion, Khullar said, without elaborating. Bloomberg calculations based on previously announced data show exports grew 3.7 percent last month from a year earlier, the slowest pace in more than two years.

The South Asian nation’s imports in November were $35.9 billion, he said. Imports in the eight months through November were $309.5 billion, causing a trade deficit of $116.8 billion in the period, Khullar said.

India will get “close to, but not quite $300 billion in exports” in the year ending March 31, he said.

The South Asian nation’s export growth has vacillated this year, surging 82 percent in July before slowing to an 11 percent gain in October, according to previously reported data by the commerce ministry.

A report by Mumbai-based Kotak Institutional Equities Research in October showed “wide gaps” in engineering export numbers released by the government and data culled from annual reports of the top 500 companies on India’s exchanges for the year ended March 31.

While official announcement showed engineering exports jumped 79 percent to $68 billion in the year through March, data collected by Kotak from company reports indicated only an 11 percent increase to 638 billion rupees ($12.3 billion) during the period, according to the report written by Sanjeev Prasad, Sunita Baldawa and Amit Kumar.

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