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India-born Gita Gopinath joins IMF as its first female chief economist

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Washington: Mysore-born Gita Gopinath has joined International Monetary Fund as its chief economist, becoming the first woman to occupy the top IMF post.

Gopinath’s joined last week at a time, when she believes the world is experiencing a retreat from globalisation, posing challenges to multilateral institutions.

The John Zwaanstra professor of International Studies and Economics at Harvard University, Gopinath, 47, succeeds Maurice (Maury) Obstfeld as Economic Counsellor and Director of the IMF’s Research Department. Obstfeld retired December 31.

 

Announcing her appointment on October 1, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde described her as “one of the world’s outstanding economists with impeccable academic credentials, a proven track record of intellectual leadership and extensive international experience.” The 11th chief economist of the IMF, Gopinath in a recent interview to The Harvard Gazette described her appointment at the IMF as a “tremendous honour” and said the appointment of the first ever woman for this position speaks highly of IMF’s Managing Director Lagarde.

“She is phenomenal, not just in her leadership of the IMF but as a role model for women around the world,” she said.

Identifying some of her top priorities at the IMF, Gopinath told The Harvard Gazette that she would like the IMF to continue to be a place that provides intellectual leadership on important policy questions.

“Among the research issues that I would like to push, one would be understanding the role of dominant currencies like the dollar in international trade and finance. We could do more on the empirical side to try to understand countries’ dollar exposures and on the theoretical side in terms of the implications for international spillovers, consequences of dollar shortages, etc,” she said.

Most countries invoice their trade in dollars and borrow internationally in dollars. This is a central part of the international price system and the international financial system and it will be exciting to explore its consequences in greater depth with the IMF, she said.

Gopinath considers the perceived retreat from globalisation as one of the top challenges being faced by the IMF. “The one (biggest issues being faced by the IMF) that is absolutely clear and present is that we are seeing the first serious retreat from globalisation. This has not happened in the past 50 or 60 years, when the world moved toward lower tariffs and increasing trade across countries,” she told the prestigious Harvard publication.

“Over the past several months, we have the US-imposed tariffs and retaliation to them from China and other nations. There is in general growing uncertainty about trade policy, including the one arising out of Brexit [the British move to leave the European Union].

“While the trade has reduced global poverty and raised livelihoods, its consequences for inequality, and on whether the rules of engagement are fair, are real concerns that need to be addressed,” she said.

Gopinath said there is also a concern about whether there is the right multilateral institutions and frameworks in place to make sure everybody feels that there is fairness in trade. “And the same goes for capital flows,” she added.

“Foreign direct investment [FDI] was always viewed very favourably by countries. But because most of the FDI is now in tech-heavy firms, there are growing concerns about national security and international property theft. So I believe this retreat from globalisation and this retreat from multilateralism is quite unique to the times we are living in,” Gopinath said.

Another important concern, she said, is the health of emerging markets as the US continues to normalize its interest rates. The capital flows to several markets have reversed, putting pressure on their exchange rates and consequently on inflation, and on balance sheets, given that several emerging markets borrow heavily in dollars, said the IMF chief economist.


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India to surpass China to become 2nd largest oil demand centre in 2019

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New Delhi: India will surpass China to become the second largest oil demand growth centre globally in 2019 on back of buoyant auto fuel and LPG consumption, research and consultancy group Wood Mackenzie said on Tuesday.

In a report, Wood Mackenzie said India’s oil demand growth recovered strongly in 2018, overcoming the aftermath of the implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) and demonetisation, and contributed 14 per cent of the global demand growth or 2,45,000 barrels per day.

“We forecast oil demand to grow at the same level in 2019. This will result in India becoming the second largest demand growth centre globally in 2019, behind the US but ahead of China. Transport fuels – gasoline and diesel – and residential LPG will continue to be the two main drivers of oil demand growth,” it said.

 

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), India is currently ranked behind the United States and China as the world’s third-largest oil consumer. It consumed 206.2 million tonnes (over 4 million bpd) in the 2017-18 fiscal year.

During April-December, consumption of petroleum products has been 157.4 million tonnes, up 2.5 per cent over year-ago period.

Last August, oil cartel OPEC projected India’s oil demand to rise by 5.8 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2040, accounting for about 40 per cent of the overall increase in global demand during the period.

Mackenzie said diesel, the most consumed fuel in the country, is projected to grow by 6.4 per cent or 1,12,000 bpd year-on-year in 2019 compared with 93,000 bpd in 2018.

This was because of “buoyant commercial vehicle sales facilitated by sustained infrastructure growth, and increasing demand from the construction, logistics, e-commerce and consumer goods sectors,” it said.

Also, the push will come from a demand-based approach instead of a tax-based approach in the logistics sector, following the implementation of the GST, which has led to the removal of inter-state taxes. “This is a structural shift, resulting in increased demand for heavy and medium-duty trucks to achieve economies of scale and operational efficiency.”

More importantly, general elections in May will lead to increased travel activity for campaigning and implementation of infrastructure projects, which will bolster demand in the first half of 2019, Mackenzie said.

 

“Key risks ensue as crude price volatility is expected to persist. Historically, short-term gasoline demand has been relatively inelastic to retail prices in developing economies such as India. Even though higher retail prices affect consumer sentiment for new vehicle purchases, we believe this trend will continue with income effects driving the demand, subduing the price effects,” it said.

LPG demand growth will remain robust in 2019 at 5 per cent (40,000 bpd) although it is lower than the 56,000 bpd growth achieved in 2018. “The number of new household LPG customers continued to surge, driven by the Ujjwala scheme to promote clean cooking fuel in rural areas. That said, there is a largely untapped market, as around 50 million households remain deprived of LPG,” it said.

On the use of electric vehicles, it said only 2,60,000 EVs have hit Indian roads, majority being two-wheelers.

“Electric car sales, for instance, declined by 40 per cent to a mere 1,200 units in the financial year 2018 over the financial year 2017, while electric two-wheeler sales rose 138 per cent to 54,800 units during the same period. In contrast, China had a stock of 1.8 million EVs and 258 million e-bikes at the end of 2018,” it said.

This year, it said, will be an important year as the final version of the National Auto Policy and the second phase of the FAME scheme will be released.

“The question is the timing – will it be before or after the elections? Will the Modi government change tack if it is not re-elected? Will this ambiguity continues to deter wider adoption? Automakers seem to have realised that EV adoption is not a question of ‘if’. For instance, Maruti Suzuki, the largest automaker in India, will launch an electric version of one of its best-selling entry-segment cars – the Wagon R – in Q1 2019,” Mackenzie said.

Another key challenge will be stakeholder management and coordination across the different ministries, government bodies and industry participants while the policy is formalised.

Stating that two-wheelers will dominate the electric mobility landscape in the personal transport sector, it said India offers huge potential for automakers as car ownership levels are very low (23 per 1,000 capita).

Rising income levels will increase car ownership and most global automakers are closely watching this lucrative market. At the same time, two-wheelers should not be ignored – with current ownership six times larger than four-wheelers.

“We believe that two-wheelers are the more effective option given their utility in intra-city travel, less need for public charging infrastructure and availability of battery technology. Two-wheelers will eventually leapfrog four-wheelers towards the goal of a greener and sustainable mobility future,” it added.

 

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Sensex snaps 5-day winning streak on weak global cues, profit-booking

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Mumbai: The domestic equity market took a breather on Tuesday after a five-day rising spree as investors booked profits in metal, financials and auto counters, amid weak cues from international markets after IMF lowered its global growth projections for 2019 and 2020.

The 30-share BSE Sensex dropped 134.32 points to end at 36,444.64, while the broader NSE Nifty finished 39.10 points lower at 10,922.75.

Participants were seen taking money off the table after the recent rally, even as the wider sentiment remained positive, underpinned by better-than-expected Q3 earnings by several bluechips.

 

The BSE Sensex, after resuming higher at 36,649.92, advanced to 36,650.47 on buying by domestic institutional investors (DIIs) as well as retail participants. However, market quickly slipped into the negative zone as investors chose lock in gains in recent outperformers, dragging down the key benchmark to a low of 36,282.93 before ending at 36,444.64 down 134.32 points, or 0.37 per cent.

The gauge had rallied over 725 points in the previous five sessions. Likewise, the 50-stock NSE barometer Nifty finished 39.10 points, or 0.36 per cent, down at 10,922.75 after hitting the day’s high of 10,949.80 and a low of 10,864.15.

Brokers said investors turned cautious and preferred to log profits in recent gainers, dragging down key indices.

“The market tracked other Asian markets following IMF’s weak forecasts of global growth prospects,” said Paras Bothra, President, Equity Research, Ashika Group.

“While India’s economic forecasts were retained, concerns were raised over the difficulties in containing the fiscal deficit. Continued weakness in the rupee favoured IT and Pharma stocks while majority of other sectors were under pressure,” he added.

The IMF lowered its global growth projections for 2019 and 2020 to 3.5 per cent and 3.6 per cent respectively, citing slowdown in several advanced economies around the world more rapidly than previously anticipated.

Meanwhile, India is projected to grow at 7.5 per cent in 2019 and 7.7 per cent in 2020, an impressive over one percentage point ahead of China’s estimated growth of 6.2 per cent in these two years, the IMF said Monday, attributing the pick up to the lower oil prices and a slower pace of monetary tightening.

The International Monetary Fund in its January World Economy Outlook update on Monday said India would remain the fastest growing major economies of the world.

 

Foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) continued their selling activity on domestic bourses here. They sold shares worth a net Rs 299.79 crore, while domestic institutional investors (DIIs) made purchases to the tune of Rs 520.80 crore on Monday, provisional data showed.

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Gold extends gains on jewellers’ buying

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New Delhi: Gold firmed up by Rs 125 to Rs 33,325 per 10 grams on Tuesday, largely on the back of sustained wedding season buying by jewellers even as it weakened to near three-week lows overseas.

Silver, however, turned weak due to reduced offtake by coin makers and consuming industries and lost Rs 250 to Rs 39,850 per kg.

Persistent buying by local jewellers, triggered by the ongoing wedding season, kept gold prices higher, bullion traders said.

 

Globally, gold fell 0.13 per cent to USD 1,278.90 an ounce in New York as a firmer dollar made bullion more expensive for buyers using other currencies. Silver also eased by 0.46 per cent to USD 15.26 an ounce.

In the national capital, gold of 99.9 per cent and 99.5 per cent purity advanced by Rs 125 each to Rs 33,325 and Rs 32,175 per 10 grams, respectively.

The yellow metal had gained Rs 40 on Monday. Sovereign, however, remained unaltered at Rs 25,500 per piece of eight grams on scattered enquiries.

In contrast, silver ready prices dropped by Rs 250 to Rs 39,850 per kg and weekly-based delivery slipped by Rs 264 to Rs 38,876 per kg.

Silver coins, however, were unchanged at Rs 77,000 for buying and Rs 78,000 for selling of 100 pieces.

 

 

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