Mumbai, Feb 24 (PTI) The rupee today fell sharply by 36paise against the US currency due to heavy month-end dollardemand from importers following high crude oil prices and ahefty decline in equity markets.
The rupee settled at 45.48/49, a steep fall of 0.80 percent, or 36 paise over the previous close.
Heavy month-end dollar demand from importers, mainly oilrefiners, following rising global crude oil near two-year highpulled the rupee down, dealers said.
New York''s main contract, light sweet crude for Aprildelivery was trading near USD 101 in European market afterworsening situation in Libya, that could spread to other oilproducing countries in North Africa.
As a result, importers turned heavy buyers for dollar,putting pressure on the rupee.
At the Interbank Foreign Exchange (Forex) market, thedomestic unit opened lower at 45.25/26 a dollar from lastclose of 45.12/13 and immediately touched a high of 45.23.
However, weak equities following global turmoil led therupee to tumble to the day''s low of 45.50 before concluding at45.48/49.
The Indian benchmark Sensex crashed by nearly 546 pointsor 3.00 per cent, completing three-session of losing stringthat influenced the rupee''s fall.
The dollar fell to its lowest level against the euro inthree weeks in New York yesterday while it was trading down by0.1 per cent against its six major rivals in London today.
Dealers expected more capital outflows in the coming daysafter distinctly sluggish equities.
Meanwhile, food inflation rose to 11.49 per cent for weekended February 12 from 11.05 per cent in the previous week.
The rupee premium for the forward dollar turned negativeon fresh receivings by exporters. The benchmark six-monthforward dollar premium payable in July ended weak at 123-125paise from 125-1/2-127-1/2 paise previously.
Far-forward contracts maturing in January also finishedlower at 255-257 paise from 258-260 paise on Wednesday.
The Reserve Bank of India has fixed the reference ratefor the dollar at Rs 45.37 and the euro at Rs 62.39.
The rupee remained weak to end at Rs 73.49/51 against thepound sterling from Wednesday''s close of Rs 73.26/28 and alsodropped further to Rs 62.62/64 per euro from Rs 61.97/99previously.
It, however, fell back sharply against the yen to Rs55.57/59 per 100 yen from Rs 54.47/49.