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Centre hikes import duty on 15 items as Rupee, stocks fall

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New Delhi: On a day when the benchmark indices, BSE Sensex and NSE’s Nifty 50, closed over two per cent lower amid a sell-off in global markets, the government hiked import duty on around 15 items up to 20 per cent, effective Friday.
The latest step follows an earlier move to hike customs duty on 19 items, including air-conditioners and refrigerators, from 10 per cent to 20 per cent.
Earlier Thursday, two senior Finance Ministry officials told The Indian Express that more measures to curb imports and a possible issue of bonds to Non-Resident Indians are options that could be considered to contain the rising current account deficit (CAD). In April-June 2018, the CAD widened to $15.8 billion —2.4% of GDP — compared with $15 billion during the same period last year.
The latest hike mainly targeted communication items. Import duty on “populated, loaded or stuffed printed circuit boards” of eight goods, other than mobile phones, has been raised to 10 per cent. Duty has also been raised from 10 per cent to 20 per cent for base stations and for machines for reception, conversion and transmission or regeneration of voice, images or other data, including switching and routing apparatus other than modems, voice frequency telegraphy, digital loop carrier systems and multiplexers.
The late evening decision came after a sharp fall in stock, bonds and rupee markets, with traders cautious ahead of retail inflation and Index of Industrial Production data due Friday.
Finance Ministry officials attributed the fall in markets to global factors. “Stock markets have their own way of going up and down. (But) our main worry is current account deficit, balance of payments gap and the rupee. These are the three things which we are watching and we will find ways for them. We have a strategy in place. If the need be, the government can intervene in different ways also to remove the balance of payments gap,” an official said.
For the first time in six quarters, the balance of payments turned negative in the April-June quarter – a deficit of $11.3 billion, compared to a surplus of $11.4 billion last year.
The rupee has lost more than 13 per cent since the beginning of 2018. On Thursday, the rupee hit yet another record low of 74.45 against the US dollar. The BSE Sensex crashed 1,030 points to slip below the key 34,000-mark in the opening trade, tracking a global sell-off as. The Sensex ended 759.74 points, or 2.19 per cent, lower at 34,001.15.
In the global markets, the biggest stock slide since February impacted indices from the US through Europe and Asia on Thursday, triggered, in part, by fresh fears over countries imposing controls on global trade. While China’s Shanghai Composite gauge tumbled more than 5 per cent intra-day, the losses in the European stock markets were far more subdued. Oil prices fell to a two-week low as global stock markets slipped.
”We do have pressure on CAD, we do admit it but the government is not oblivious to it. On CAD and capping our balance of payments, we have got quite good (forex) reserves now compared to 2013, so that way also we don’t need to worry…It is our attempt to take actions in time and we will take more actions if need be. The government is alert about the situation, we are always discussing, we are finding the strategy and we will do what it requires us to do at an appropriate time,” a senior official said.
Asked whether the government will launch NRI bond issue, the official said: “I can’t tell about future. It may happen tomorrow, it may happen after one month, it may not happen. All options are available with us and we will see what time we will get into the market.”
Attributing the fall in markets to global factors, the official said: “What happened in US yesterday had a ripple effect here today. IMF downgraded global growth rate, US growth rate for next year, both these had impact on markets…(But) India’s (growth) is impressive and stable. They have downgraded not only global GDP growth rate but they have also downgraded two specific countries, which will have a competitive effect vis-a-vis India, that is, US and China.”
India’s inflation is “under control” and growth is “picking up”, but rupee is and current account deficit are turning negative mainly due to rising global crude oil prices, the official said. The finance ministry does not expect the crude oil prices to rise above $85 to a barrel in the international markets, and oil marketing companies are unlikely to be asked to share further burden of subsidising prices.
“Oil prices are now coming down, so that is a reason for rupee to appreciate. It’s possible that some people might have taken positions in rupee, with some kind of different outlook, but now I think it is time for them to reconsider also. They may lose money if they…but we believe that rupee should only appreciate from this level. At least, it should start appreciating. That’s our estimate,” the official said.


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Business

WPI inflation at 8-month low of 3.80 pc in Dec on softening fuel, food prices

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New Delhi: Inflation based on wholesale prices fell to a 8-month low of 3.80 per cent in December, 2018, on softening prices of fuel and some food items.

The Wholesale Price Index (WPI)-based inflation stood at 4.64 per cent in November, 2018, and 3.58 per cent in December 2017. According to the government data released on Monday, deflation in food articles stood at 0.07 per cent in December, against 3.31 per cent in November.

Vegetables, too, saw deflation at 17.55 per cent in December, compared to 26.98 per cent in the previous month. Inflation in the ‘fuel and power’ basket in December slumped to 8.38 per cent, nearly half of 16.28 per cent in November.

 

This was on account of lowering of prices of petrol and diesel through December. Individually, in petrol and diesel inflation was 1.57 per cent and 8.61 per cent, respectively, and for liquified petroleum gas (LPG) it was 6.87 per cent during December.

Among food articles, potato prices became cheaper substantially with inflation at 48.68 per cent in December, as against 86.45 per cent in November.

Inflation in pulses stood at 2.11 per cent, while in ‘egg, meat and fish’ it was 4.55 per cent. Onion witnessed deflation of 63.83 per cent in December, compared to 47.60 per cent in November.

The 3.80 per cent inflation is the lowest in 8 months, and a lower inflation than this was last seen in April at 3.62 per cent. Data for retail or consumer price index-based inflation would be released later in the day.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) mainly takes into account retail inflation data while formulating monetary policy. In its fifth monetary policy review for the fiscal, last month, the Reserve Bank kept interest rates unchanged, but held out a promise to cut them if the upside risks to inflation do not materialise.

The central bank lowered retail inflation projection to 2.7-3.2 per cent for the second half of the current fiscal, citing normal monsoon and moderate food prices.

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Air tickets, identity cards to become redundant; flyers can use facial recognition to enter airport

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New Delhi: The hassle to show air tickets and identity cards at Airport will be over as air travellers can soon enter airport with facial recognition biometric facility.

GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd (GHIAL) that operates the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (RGIA), has successfully conducted the trial of facial recognition technology. During the first phase of the trial, employees of GHIAL were included. The second phase of the trial is expected to be launched by the end of this month, in which GHIAL will include common air fliers. And if the second phase of the trial is successful, GHIAL will implement facial recognition technology in Hyderabad airport from March onwards.

Three phases of facial recognition technology

 

First phase: GHIAL has installed facial recognition cameras in the Hyderabad. In the first phase, the imaging of passengers will be done through these cameras which will recognise the faces of the flyers.

Second phase: There would be a centralised registration system for passengers. Each passenger’s face will be attached with his/her photo identity like passport, Aadhaar, voting id, driving licence etc. The details of passengers along with his facial mapping will be scanned and stored by GHIAL through the centralised registration system at the Airport.

Third phase: The ID proof of the passengers along with their facial mapping will be stored at the e-boarding gate of the Airport.The data centres at Airlines will also have similar information. Whenever such passengers book tickets, the data system will alert the Hyderabad Airport authorities.

The moment you book a flight ticket originating from Hyderabad airport, your details will be shared by the data centre and the information will be given to all the concerned authorities.

When you reach the Hyderabad terminal gate, face recognition technology will identify you and all your details will be shared on the screen. The security personnel at the gate will access all your information via the system.

Similarly, your details can be accessed by the security personnel at the check-in counter, security check-in. Once the formalities are done, passengers will get an online boarding pass on their mobile phone.

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Maruti all-new WagonR 2019 available for booking at Rs 11,000

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New Delhi: Country’s largest car manufacturer Maruti Suzuki India on Monday said that its all-new WagonR is available for booking starting.

Customers can book the 3rd generation WagonR at authorized dealer network across the country by paying Rs 11,000. They can also book the car online.

The New WagonR is powered by the advanced K-series engine offering high fuel efficiency and an unmatched driving experience, Maruti said. The car now comes with a new 1.2 L engine option that delivers powerful and impressive performance coupled with great fuel economy. Customers will also have the choice of 1.0 L engine for the all-new WagonR.

 

Maruti Suzuki’s acclaimed two pedal technology will also be offered in the new WagonR. The Auto Gear Shift (AGS) offers. Maruti said that for the first it is going to offer the most innovative SmartPlay Studio infotainment experience in the Big New WagonR.

The car will be available in Pearl Poolside Blue, Pearl Nutmeg Brown, Magma Grey, Pearl Autumn Orange, Silky Silver and Superior White Range of variants. The Petrol: 1.0 L engine will be available in Lxi, Vxi / Vxi AGS variants while the Petrol: 1.2 L will be available in Vxi, Vxi AGS, Zxi / Zxi AGS variants.

“The new WagonR gets bigger with enhanced comfort. The car’s sturdy and masculine look with true tall boy design makes for a strong road presence. The Big New WagonR not only embodies strong looks but is also stronger inside out,” Maruti said in a release.

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