Today’s top business news: Shares fall as fears of virus-led economic downturn linger, SBI expects 2nd wave to peak in third week of May, Gold heads for third weekly gain, and more – The Hindu


The benchmark stock indices opened the day on a negative note as investors were worried about growth as coronavirus cases continue to surge.

Join us as we follow the top business news through the day.

4:30 PM

Nippon Paint says volumes down 40% as COVID-related curbs hit production

Covid-19 uncertainty hits demand.

PTI reports: «Nippon Paint India on Friday said restrictions in several states due to the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic is impacting production with volumes down by 40 per cent and there is uncertainty in the market.

The company said availability of manpower is also becoming an issue with worker availability down by up to 40 per cent.

«The current lockdown in six states is having an immediate impact on manufacturing; volume is already down by 40 per cent and there is uncertainty in the market,» Nippon Paint India President – Automotive Refinishes and Wood Coatings Sharad Malhotra said in a statement.

Several states including, Delhi, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh, have announced different forms of restrictions, including a statewide curfew, weekend lockdown, and night curfew, to curb the surge in COVID-19 infections.

India is currently reeling under a devastating second wave of the pandemic and added a record over 3.32 lakh new coronavirus cases in a single day taking the country’s tally to 1,62,63,695, while active cases crossed the 24-lakh mark. The death toll increased to 1,86,920 with a record 2,263 new fatalities, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Friday.

Malhotra further said, «Also, semi-automated setups that depend on manpower, such as ours, are facing a double whammy as worker availability is down by 30-40 per cent.» On the prospects of prolonged restrictions, he said, «We are concerned that if the lockdown continues past the end of the month, it would have a significant effect on the overall supply chain, which is still recovering from last year’s shutdown and production loss, and we will have to wait for 6-9 months, if not a year, for it to recover.»»

4:00 PM

Sensex declines 202 pts after choppy trade; Nifty ends below 14,350

Another bad day for stocks.

PTI reports: «Equity benchmark Sensex declined 202 points on Friday, tracking losses in ICICI Bank, Infosys and HUL amid persistent concerns over the economic impact of the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

After a volatile session, the 30-share BSE index ended 202.22 points or 0.42 per cent lower at 47,878.45.

Similarly, the broader NSE Nifty dropped 64.80 points or 0.45 per cent to 14,341.35.

M&M was the top loser in the Sensex pack, shedding over 2 per cent, followed by Dr Reddy’s Bharti Airtel, Tech Mahindra, HUL, ICICI Bank and Infosys.

On the other hand, PowerGrid, NTPC, IndusInd Bank, Axis Bank, HDFC and Asian Paints were among the gainers.

«It was a choppy trading day and benchmark indices fell sharply towards the final session of the market mainly led be selling pressure in across the sectors barring PSU Banks. Concerns of rising COVID-19 cases continued to weigh on investors sentiments,» said Binod Modi, Head Strategy at Reliance Securities.

According to Rusmik Oza, Executive Vice President, Head of Fundamental Research at Kotak Securities, Indian markets succumbed to FPI selling this week on account of the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases. FPIs have remained net sellers this week with the rupee sustaining at 75 levels against the USD.

«As India has become the epicentre of the virus resurgence, there is fear of potential earnings downgrades which could turn out to be higher in case of mid and small caps vis-à-vis the large caps.

«Fresh lockdowns and restrictions being imposed by various state governments will impact demand and also business activity. The persistent rise in hard commodity prices is a threat which could weigh on margins of many manufacturing companies. Too many potential negatives have come together which could impact markets in the very near future,» he said.

India added a record over 3.32 lakh new coronavirus cases in a single day, taking the country’s tally to 1,62,63,695, while active cases crossed the 24-lakh mark, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Friday.

Elsewhere in Asia, bourses in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Seoul ended on a positive note, while Tokyo was in the red.

Stock exchanges in Europe were trading with losses in mid-session deals.

Meanwhile, international oil benchmark Brent crude was trading 0.06 per cent lower at USD 65.36 per barrel.»

3:30 PM

MFIs want their employees, SHG workers to be vaccinated on priority

Microfinance institutions have urged the Centre to consider prioritising vaccinations for their employees and self-help group workers in order to ensure that lines of credit remain open for the poor amidst the rising second wave of COVID-19 infections.

In a missive to the Ministries of Finance, Home Affairs and Health and Family welfare, the association of community development finance institutions Sa-Dhan on Friday said that micro-finance institutions (MFIs) have been allowed to function just like banks amidst the present spate of partial lockdowns as they perform an essential service for the poor.

Following the exodus of the poor people experienced during the first wave of COVID 19 and its challenging impact on their economy, perpetual operations of microfinance is indispensable, the MFIs have stressed.

3:00 PM

Mylab to deploy 50 high-volume mobile testing labs for COVID-19 across India

Pune-based molecular diagnostics company Mylab Discovery Solutions on Friday said it plans to deploy 50 ICMR-approved and NABL certified mobile testing labs across the country to meet the huge backlog in RT-PCR testing amid rising cases of COVID-19.

These labs are “powered by automated Compact XL machines which do testing 3 times faster than the conventional labs due to parallel processing and automated handling,” Mylab said in a statement.

Each mobile lab can process as many as 1,500 to 3,000 tests per day, it added. The company has already made two labs functional at Mumbai, and three more are being rolled out within this week – one each in Pune, Mumbai and Goa, Mylab said.


2:30 PM

Gold heads for third weekly gain on lower Treasury yields, weaker dollar

The story behind the gold rally.

Reuters reports: «Gold was little changed on Friday as traders remained on the sidelines ahead of a U.S. Federal Reserve meeting next week, but a weaker U.S. dollar and lower Treasury yields put bullion on track for a third straight weekly gain.

Spot gold was steady at $1,784.11 per ounce by 0915 GMT. The metal jumped to its highest since Feb. 25 at $1,797.67 on Thursday, and has added about 0.4% so far this week. U.S. gold futures rose 0.1% to $1,784.10 per ounce.

«The focus is turning to the Fed as in recent times we have seen significant improvement in U.S. data. That’s raising speculation that the Fed might signal its intention to reduce its emergency stimulus measures in the coming months,» said Fawad Razaqzada, market analyst with ThinkMarkets. «There’s an element of hesitation as people are just waiting to see what the Fed says before decisively stepping in on the long side.»

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell to a 13-month low last week. The U.S. 10-year Treasury yield was at 1.5525% after falling to 1.5310% on Thursday, while the dollar index was down 0.3%.

However, gold remained subdued on Friday as investors held back bullish bets despite a weaker dollar and lower Treasury yields, awaiting Fed’s decision next week, analysts said. Fed’s next meeting ends on April 28, and while no major policy changes are expected, investors are paying close attention to any comments on possible scaling back of monetary easing in the future.

Palladium rose 0.5% to $2,849.73 per ounce but was off a record $2,891.50 hit on Thursday. Many analysts expect a further run towards $3,000 as automakers ramp up purchases of the metal, worsening a supply shortage. Silver was down 0.3% at $26.08 per ounce, but set to gain for a third straight week. Platinum rose 0.7% to $1,212.59.»

2:00 PM

Mukesh Ambani buys Britain country club for ₹592 crore

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd has bought Britain’s iconic country club and luxury golf resort, Stoke Park, for 57 million pounds (about ₹592 crore).

The acquisition adds to Reliance’s current stake in Oberoi hotels and hotel/managed residences in Mumbai that it’s developing.

Over the past four years, Reliance has announced $3.3 billion in acquisitions with 14% in retail, 80% in technology, media, and telecom (TMT) sector, and 6% in energy.

The U.K.-based firm, which owns a hotel and golf course in Buckinghamshire, U.K., will add to Reliance’s consumer and hospitality assets, the firm said in a filing late on Thursday.


1:00 PM

Oxygen gets armed escort in India as supplies run low in COVID crisis

A lowdown on the crisis.

Reuters reports: «Sirens wailing, a police convoy escorting a tanker carrying oxygen reached a hospital in India’s capital just in time, to the huge relief of doctors and relatives of COVID-19 patients counting on the supply to stave off death.

India on Friday posted the world’s largest daily COVID-19 caseload for a second day, with 332,730 new cases and 2,263 deaths, as the pandemic spiralled out of control.

A dire shortage of oxygen – essential for the survival of critical COVID patients – has meant states are closely guarding their supplies and even posting armed police at production plants to ensure security.

Several hospitals, including Shanti Mukand in the west of the New Delhi with 110 COVID patients, said they had almost exhausted their oxygen supplies on Thursday. The prospects for patients and their distraught families was disastrous.

«The hospital came to us and told us to make our own arrangements,» said Bhirendra Kumar, whose COVID-positive father was admitted 10 days ago.

«We’re not an oxygen company – how can we make our own arrangements?»

Earlier in the day, the hospital’s chief executive, Sunil Saggar, choked back tears as he described the decision to discharge some patients because the lack of oxygen meant there was nothing his hospital could do to help.

At the hospital’s oxygen supplier, Inox in Uttar Pradesh state about an hour from the capital, a line of a dozen trucks from cities across north India waited to fill up.

Half a dozen drivers told Reuters they had been waiting for as long as three days to get their trucks filled, as surging demand from hospitals in the capital and elsewhere outstripped supply.

Vakeel, who goes by one name, has been working as a driver for Inox since 1994. He said the level of demand was unprecedented.

«Every hospital wants three or four times what they did before,» he said.

The Inox plant has seen frequent visits from government officials and police, some wielding assault rifles, ensuring that there is no disruption of any kind to supplies.

An Uttar Pradesh police officer said they had been given orders to escort trucks to waiting hospitals.

Welcome though the extra security is, a supervisor at the facility said it was impossible to meet demand.

«Even if we build another five plants here we won’t be able to,» said the supervisor, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the situation.

Eventually, a truck left the plant, reaching the New Delhi hospital late on Thursday evening.

A relieved crowd of doctors and relatives who had gathered outside to wait for the truck’s arrival headed back in.

«Some things in life are difficult,» hospital chief Saggar said as the needle on the hospital’s storage tank ticked back up from close to zero. «You have to learn to manage.»

But the reprieve is only temporary.

«Every day is like this now,» Saggar said.

In less than 24 hours, the hospital will have to do it all over again, as the needle sinks back towards empty with new supplies, hopefully, on the way.»

12:30 PM

SBI pares FY22 growth to 10.4%, expects 2nd wave to peak in third week of May

State Bank of India has revised downwards its growth projection for 2021-22 to 10.4% real GDP growth and 14.3% nominal GDP growth, from 11% and 15%, respectively, citing the second wave of COVID-19 and the spate of ongoing partial, local, and weekend lockdowns in almost all States.

The country’s largest bank expects the second wave to peak in the third week of May, and pointed out that in the first wave, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra had peaked before the national peak during the first wave.

“Now new cases in Maharashtra seem to be stabilising but share of cases in total of various other States such as Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat has increased and these are showing increase in daily new cases. So if other States also implement strict actions to control their spread, the national peak may come within two weeks after the Maharashtra peak,” the bank’s research team has estimated.

12:00 PM

Tata Elxsi shares zoom nearly 10% after Q4 earnings

Today’s big mover.

PTI reports: «Shares of Tata Elxsi gained nearly 10 per cent in morning trade on Friday after the company’s net profit increased 40.3 per cent in the March 2021 quarter.

The stock jumped 9.64 per cent to Rs 3,340 — its 52-week high — on the BSE.

At the NSE, it zoomed 9.57 per cent to its 52-week high of Rs 3,340.

Tata Elxsi on Thursday said its net profit has increased 40.3 per cent to Rs 115.16 crore in the March 2021 quarter.

The company had registered a net profit of Rs 82.08 crore in the year-ago period, Tata Elxsi said in a regulatory filing.

Its revenue from operations rose 18.1 per cent to Rs 518.39 crore for the said quarter, from Rs 438.88 crore in the corresponding period last fiscal, it added.

In FY21, the company’s net profit increased 43.7 per cent to Rs 368.1 crore, while revenue grew 13.4 per cent to Rs 1,826.2 crore over the previous fiscal.

«It was a satisfying quarter with continued growth across offerings, industries and geographies,» Tata Elxsi CEO and Managing Director Manoj Raghavan said in a statement.

The company continued to execute strongly on its growth aspirations with over 9 per cent quarter-on-quarter revenue growth in constant currency, he added.»

11:30 AM

Apple plans to expand ads business

Apple Inc is planning to expand its advertising business by adding a second advertising slot in its App Store search page’s «suggested» section, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

The new advertising slot, which will be rolled out by the end of the month, will allow advertisers to promote their apps across the whole network, rather than in response to specific searches, according to the report.

The report comes as Apple plans to send prompts to iPhone users to allow apps to use their data for personalised advertising, a move that has drawn backlash from tech rival Facebook Inc, which argues the changes will hurt the social media company’s ad business.


11:00 AM

RBI approves appointment of Atanu Chakraborty as part-time chairman of HDFC Bank

Regulatory approval given.

PTI reports: «Private sector lender HDFC Bank on Friday said the Reserve Bank has approved appointment of former Economic Affairs Secretary Atanu Chakraborty as the part-time chairman of the bank.

«The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) vide its communication dated April 22, 2021, has approved the appointment of Atanu Chakraborty as the part time chairman of the bank… for a period of three years with effect from May 5, 2021 or the date of his taking charge, whichever is later,» HDFC Bank said in a regulatory filing. HDFC Bank said a meeting of the board of directors of the bank will be convened in due course inter‐alia to consider the appointment of Atanu Chakraborty as the part-time chairman and additional independent director of the bank.

Chakraborty, a 1985 batch IAS officer of Gujarat cadre, retired as Secretary of Department of Economic Affairs in April 2020. Prior to that, he was Secretary of Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM). Both departments come under the finance ministry.

Once he is appointed as chairperson, HDFC Bank will be the second private sector lender to have a former bureaucrat at the post. ICICI Bank is chaired by former Petroleum Secretary and Additional Secretary in the finance ministry G C Chaturvedi.»

10:30 AM

Turkey probes cryptocurrency exchange for possible $2 bln fraud

Turkish prosecutors launched an investigation into a cryptocurrency exchange Thursday over allegations it may have defrauded some 390,000 investors of an estimated $2 billion.

The office of Istanbul’s chief prosecutor said it was probing the Thodex cryptocurrency exchange following complaints from users who could not access their assets.

Thodex owner Faruk Fatih Ozer deactivated his social media accounts and is believed to have fled Turkey for Tirana, Albania, Turkish broadcaster Haberturk reported.

Ozer could face possible charges of fraud and forming a criminal organization, Haberturk said, adding that a police cybercrimes unit searched Thodex’s Istanbul offices on Thursday. Meanwhile, the country’s financial crimes investigation agency blocked all Thodex’s funds, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.


10:00 AM

Indian shares fall as fears of virus-led economic downturn linger

Another poor start to the day for stocks.

Reuters reports: «Indian shares opened lower on Friday, hurt by losses in tech and financial stocks, as the country continued to struggle with rising cases of the novel coronavirus that kept alive fears of continued economic pain.

The NSE Nifty 50 index fell 0.3% to 14,366.95 by 0349 GMT, while the S&P BSE Sensex slid 0.37% to 47,899.1.

The country on Friday reported another record rise in daily coronavirus infections of 332,730, while the daily death toll also jumped by a record 2,263.

Meanwhile, credit rating agency Fitch forecast a negative outlook for India, citing deterioration in the country’s «public finance metrics,» and said surging infections may delay a recovery in its GDP.

IT stocks fell 0.3%, with Infosys Ltd losing 0.7%.

Finance stocks also declined. Lender ICICI Bank slid 0.9% to lead the losses on the benchmark index.»

9:30 AM

ICRA cuts its FY22 GDP estimate by 0.5%, sees economy expanding by 10.5%

Domestic rating agency ICRA on Tuesday cut its 2021-22 growth estimate by 0.5% on the upper end, as a newer spate of lockdowns and restrictions get imposed in pockets to arrest the rising COVID-19 cases.

The agency now expects the economy to grow 10-10.5% in 2021-22, against the 10-11% estimated earlier.

Starting with Maharashtra, a slew of other pockets in the country like Delhi have been taking to localised lockdowns to arrest the climbing COVID-19 cases, which derails economic activity.

«For Q1 FY2022 (April-June 2021), we had earlier expected a GDP expansion of 27.5%, boosted by the low base.

«With the unprecedented surge in cases and evolving restrictions, the pace of GDP growth in the ongoing quarter may be tempered to 20-25%,» the agency said.


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