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Bad omen for the economy: Demand in India is cooling, shows RBI survey

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Mumbai :For those surprised by India’s decision to hold interest rates last week, the central bank’s forward-looking surveys hold some explanation: demand in the world’s fastest-growing major economy may be cooling.
The capacity utilization rate, consumer confidence, and the outlook for demand in the manufacturing sector in the third quarter were less optimistic, the results of separate surveys released by the Reserve Bank of India show. That bodes ill for an economy already grappling with a weak rupee and elevated prices of crude oil — the nation’s top import.
The tempering of optimism in the economy that expanded at 8 percent plus pace in the quarter to June was partly caused by tighter financial conditions, following back-to-back rate increases by the RBI until August and as the default by a systemically important financier plays out.
The International Monetary Fund retained its growth forecast for the $2.6 trillion economy at 7.3 percent in the fiscal year through March 2019. It lowered the projection for the next year to 7.4 percent, down from the 7.5 percent seen three months ago.
The RBI’s Industrial Outlook Survey of the Manufacturing Sector for the second quarter of 2018-19 showed that while the outlook for selling prices had improved, expectations for profit margins were unchanged.
“Their sentiments on the overall financial situation deteriorated due to some loss of optimism on availability of finance from banks and other sources,” the RBI survey said. However, respondents were more optimistic about availability of finance from abroad.
Meanwhile, the order books, inventories and capacity utilization survey for the April to June quarter that offer a snapshot of demand conditions showed capacity utilization in the manufacturing sector is declining. The findings are based on a survey of 994 manufacturing companies in India.
The inflation-targeting central bank left the repurchase rate unchanged at 6.5 percent on Friday. Only 9 of 49 economists surveyed by Bloomberg had predicted the move. The central bank also lowered the inflation forecast to a range of 3.9 percent to 4.5 percent for the second half of the year ending March, from 4.8 percent previously.
“Looking ahead, we see inflation continuing to undershoot the RBI’s forecasts, as a widening output gap reduces price pressures,” said Bloomberg economist Abhishek Gupta. “That should keep the RBI on hold in December, in our view.”


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Indian billionaires’ wealth rose by Rs 2,200 crore a day in 2018: report

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New Delhi: Indian billionaires saw their fortunes swell by Rs 2,200 crore a day last year, with the top 1 per cent of the country’s richest getting richer by 39 per cent as against just 3 per cent increase in wealth for the bottom-half of the population, an Oxfam study said .Globally, billionaires’ fortunes rose by 12 per cent or USD 2.5 billion a day in 2018, whereas the poorest half of the world’s population saw their wealth decline by 11 per cent, the international rights group said in its annual study released before the start of the five-day World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in this Swiss ski resort town.

Oxfam further said that 13.6 crore Indians, who make up the poorest 10 per cent of the country, continued to remain in debt since 2004.

Asking the political and business leaders who have gathered in Davos for the annual gathering of the rich and powerful of the world to take urgent steps to tackle the growing rich-poor divide, Oxfam said this increasing inequality is undermining the fight against poverty, damaging economies and fuelling public anger across the globe.

 

Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, one of the key participants at the WEF summit, said it is “morally outrageous” that a few wealthy individuals are amassing a growing share of India’s wealth, while the poor are struggling to eat their next meal or pay for their child’s medicines.

“If this obscene inequality between the top 1 per cent and the rest of India continues then it will lead to a complete collapse of the social and democratic structure of this country,” she added.

Noting that wealth is becoming even more concentrated, Oxfam said 26 people now own the same as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity, down from 44 people last year.

The world’s richest man Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, saw his fortune increase to USD 112 billion and just 1 per cent of his fortune is equivalent to the whole health budget for Ethiopia, a country of 115 million people.

“India’s top 10 per cent of the population holds 77.4 per cent of the total national wealth. The contrast is even sharper for the top 1 per cent that holds 51.53 per cent of the national wealth. The bottom 60 per cent, the majority of the population, own merely 4.8 per cent of the national wealth. Wealth of top 9 billionaires is equivalent to the wealth of the bottom 50 per cent of the population,” Oxfam said while noting that high level of wealth disparity subverts democracy.

Between 2018 and 2022, India is estimated to produce 70 new dollar millionaires every day, Oxfam said.

“It (the survey) reveals how governments are exacerbating inequality by underfunding public services, such as healthcare and education, on the one hand, while under taxing corporations and the wealthy, and failing to clamp down on tax dodging on the other,” Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar said.
The survey also shows that women and girls are hardest hit by rising economic inequality, he added.

“The size of one’s bank account should not dictate how many years your children spend in school, or how long you live — yet this is the reality in too many countries across the globe. While corporations and the super-rich enjoy low tax bills, millions of girls are denied a decent education and women are dying for lack of maternity care,” Byanyima said.

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Fugitive Choksi surrenders Indian passport in Antigua to ‘avoid extradition’

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Chandigarh:Fugitive tycoon Mehul Choksi has given up his Indian citizenship and surrendered his passport to Antigua, as per media reports.

This move by Choksi’s is being seen as an attempt to avoid his extradition to India. Antigua and India do not have an extradition treaty.

India had earlier handed over a request to Antigua for extradition of Mehul Choksi who is charged in connection with India’s biggest banking fraud, and now living in the Caribbean nation after taking its citizenship.

 

Official sources said a team comprising officials from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and other agencies was sent to Antigua a couple of days ago to request the Antiguan authorities to extradite Choksi, wanted in India in the US$ 2 billion Punjab National bank scam.

As per reports, Antiguan authorities cleared Choksi’s citizenship in November 2017 after India did not give any adverse report to stall his application for it.

Choksi had fled India on January 4 this year and took oath of allegiance in Antigua on January 15. His citizenship was cleared in November 2017.

Choksi’s application for citizenship in Antigua in May 2017 was accompanied with clearance from the local police as required by norms, Antiguan newspaper the Daily Observer reported, citing a statement from the Citizenship by Investment Unit of Antigua and Barbuda (CIU).

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FPI outflow crosses Rs 4,000 crore in Jan so far

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New Delhi: Foreign investors have pulled out more than Rs 4,000 crore from the Indian capital markets so far in January, highlighting their cautious stance towards the country.

This comes following a collective net inflow of over Rs 17,000 crore in the capital markets both equity and debt by Foreign Portfolio Investors (FPIs) during November and December.

Prior to that, they had pulled out a massive Rs 38,905 crore in October.

 

According to data available with the depositories, FPIs withdrew a net amount of Rs 3,987 crore from equities and a net sum of Rs 53 crore from the debt market, taking the total outflow to Rs 4,040 crore during January 1-18.

Market experts believe that FPIs are continuing with their ‘wait and watch’ approach towards India.

Going ahead, the focus would be on the budget, progress on the economic growth front and general elections, they added.

Other factors such as movement in crude prices and currency as well as US-China trade relations will also play a role in FPI flows, they added.

Harsh Jain, COO at Groww, an online MF investment platform, said 2019 is likely to see a lot of volatility because of the rate hikes and dollar instability, but the Indian markets may be able to weather the storm.

“India offers better investment opportunities due to consistent growth, supportive global factors and attract valuations. We should expect positive inflow in coming months,” he added.

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