Today’s top business news: Stocks rally to recover from morning session losses, oil falls 3rd day on U.S. stock build and surging COVID-19 cases, S&P forecasts 11% growth for India, and more – The Hindu


The Sensex and the Nifty opened the day on a negative note as fresh coronavirus cases continue to hit new highs each passing day.

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

4:30 PM

Rupee slips 6 paise to 74.94 against US dollar as COVID cases spike

The gains in stocks didn’t rub off on the rupee.

PTI reports: «The rupee weakened further by 6 paise to close at 74.94 (provisional) against the US dollar on Thursday as a persistent rise in COVID-19 cases and enhanced restrictions imposed by a number of states weighed on investor sentiment.

At the interbank forex market, the local unit opened at 75.25 against the greenback and traded in the range of 74.82 to 75.26 during the day.

The rupee finally ended at 74.94 against the American currency, registering a fall of 6 paise over its previous close. On Tuesday, the rupee had settled at 74.88 against the American currency.

Forex and equity markets were closed on Wednesday on account of ‘Ram Navami’.

Meanwhile, the dollar index, which gauges the greenback’s strength against a basket of six currencies, fell 0.07 per cent to 91.09.

India registered over 3.14 lakh new coronavirus cases in a day, the highest-ever single-day count recorded in any country, taking the total tally of COVID-19 cases in the country to 1,59,30,965.

Brent crude futures, the global oil benchmark, were trading 0.54 per cent down at USD 64.97 per barrel.

On the domestic equity market front, the BSE Sensex ended 374.87 points or 0.79 per cent higher at 48,080.67, while the broader NSE Nifty advanced 109.75 points or 0.77 per cent to 14,406.15.

Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) remained net sellers in the capital markets, pulling out Rs 1,082.33 crore on Tuesday, as per provisional data.»

4:00 PM

Sensex rallies 375 pts; Nifty tops 14,400

Stocks show some bullish strength.

PTI reports: «Equity benchmark Sensex rebounded 375 points on Thursday, tracking gains in index majors ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Kotak Bank despite mounting COVID-19 cases in the country.

After falling 501 points in opening session, the 30-share BSE index pared all losses to end 374.87 points or 0.79 per cent higher at 48,080.67.

Similarly, the broader NSE Nifty jumped 109.75 points or 0.77 per cent to 14,406.15.

ICICI Bank was the top gainer in the Sensex pack, surging over 3 per cent, followed by HDFC, Bajaj Auto, HDFC Bank, SBI, Kotak Bank and Bajaj Finance.

On the other hand, Titan, HUL, Asian Paints, Tech Mahindra and Nestle India were among the laggards.

«In a volatile session, markets ended on a positive note despite the country recording its highest daily COVID spike as investors focused on broad basing of the vaccination program,» said S Ranganathan, Head of Research at LKP Securities.

Sharp bounce back in financials and favourable global cues supported the market’s rebound, said Binod Modi, Head – Strategy at Reliance Securities.

«Barring FMCG and IT, most of key sectoral indices traded positively. Notably, after seeing sharp rally in last couple of days, profit booking was seen today in many pharma counters. Volatility index hardened further by approximately 3 per cent,» he added.

India registered over 3.14 lakh new coronavirus cases in a day, the highest-ever single-day count recorded in any country, taking the the total tally of COVID-19 cases in the country to 1,59,30,965.

The oxygen crisis, precipitated by the second wave which has left tens of thousands hospitalised, appeared to intensify with complaints of shortage from several states.

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

Bourses in Europe were trading with gains in mid-session deals.

Meanwhile, international oil benchmark Brent crude was trading 0.51 per cent lower at USD 64.99 per barrel.»

3:30 PM

S&P forecasts 11% growth for India this fiscal, flags ‘substantial’ impact of broader lockdowns

The threat of lockdowns to economic growth.

PTI reports: «S&P Global Ratings on Thursday said the Indian economy is projected to grow at 11 per cent in the current fiscal, but flagged the «substantial» impact of broader lockdowns on the economy.

In its report on Asia-Pacific Financial Institutions, S&P said the control of COVID-19 remains a key risk for the economy. New infections have spiked in recent weeks and the country is in the middle of a second pandemic wave.

«Our forecast growth of 11 per cent for India in 2021 is followed by a 6.1 per cent-6.4 per cent forecast increase for the next couple of years… Some targeted lockdowns have already been implemented and more will likely be needed. The impact of broader lockdowns on the economy could be substantial, depending on their length and scope,» it said.

S&P, which currently has a ‘BBB-‘ rating on India with a stable outlook, has forecast an 11 per cent growth in the Indian GDP for the fiscal beginning April 1 on account of a fast economic reopening and fiscal stimulus.

As per official estimates, the Indian economy contracted 8 per cent in 2020-21 fiscal, which ended March 31, 2021.

Last week, another global rating agency Moody’s Investors Service had said the second wave of COVID infections presents a risk to India’s growth forecast, but double-digit GDP growth is likely in 2021 given the low level of activity last year.

India is in the middle of the second wave of COVID pandemic and has witnessed over 3.14 lakh new infections and 2,104 deaths on Wednesday. Active COVID cases in the country stand at over 22.91 lakh.

In the report, S&P said credit conditions have improved for Asia-Pacific banks over the past quarter.

Economies are recovering smartly, countries are rolling out vaccinations, and regional financing circumstances remain supportive. And yet, the pandemic has so seriously set back the finances of households and corporates, with deeply negative effects on lenders, S&P said. It expects banks may need years to fully recover.

Public authorities across Asia-Pacific have blunted the economic effects of COVID-19. This includes an unprecedented level of fiscal and monetary policy support for households and corporates and measures to encourage banks to lend and show forbearance toward stressed borrowers.

But for this support, the hit on the Asia-Pacific financial institutions would have been much more significant.

«Public authorities will likely continue to have a key effect on banking sector creditworthiness over the next six to 18 months. They must maintain a delicate balancing act of not withdrawing support too early or, alternatively, not overshooting,» S&P added.»

3:00 PM

Recent spike in demand for housing not pent-up but structural: HDFC chairman

The case for structural change in housing demand.

PTI reports: «The recent surge in demand for housing is not pent-up but structural in nature and it will continue to stay, HDFC Chairman Deepak Parekh said.

He said the lower interest rates, stable property prices and continued fiscal benefits on housing loans have aided the growth in home loans over the past few months.

«The strong demand that one has seen for housing in the recent period has certainly surprised on the upside. I firmly believe that this demand is not pent-up. It is structural demand and that is here to stay,» Parkeh said at a virtual proptech summit.

He said the pick-up in demand is a combination of first-time homebuyers and customers moving up the property ladder by shifting to larger homes or acquiring a second home in another location.

With the work from home (WFH) option, the proximity to one’s work place is less compelling and homebuyers have wider options in terms of locations while buying the property, he said.

Parekh also said the construction industry is one of the least digitised sectors in the world.

«It is estimated that the real estate sector spends less than 1.5 per cent of its revenue on technology. One would tend to agree that real-time data on real estate is hardly ever available,» he said.

He believes technology can bring in much-needed transparency and accountability in the real estate sector, and also improve cost efficiencies.

«For instance, progress of projects can be monitored through digital dashboards, with data driving key decisions. Funding for projects based on achieving construction milestones can be better monitored online,» Parekh said.

He added that there is so much talk about fintech, healthtech and edutech, but property technology or proptech is still in its infancy.

«Proptech companies can play a big role in accelerating the government’s Smart City Mission as well help local-level bodies and municipalities in terms of facilitating online approvals of building projects,» he said.

For the developers, proptech can help in better vendor supply management chain and bring in price efficiency.

He said there is no dearth of funding for start-ups that have good business plans.

Parekh further said that after the massive contraction in the global GDP due to the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, countries across the world are getting into recovery mode.

«Building infrastructure is one way to ensure a sustained recovery without spiralling inflation. It also creates a massive number of jobs and has a multiplier effect on the economy,» he said.

He said construction and real estate development are going to play a key role in all major global economies.»

2:00 PM

India records world’s biggest single-day rise in coronavirus cases

An update on the deteriorating coronavirus situation.

Reuters reports: «India marked a new milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, reporting 314,835 new daily cases, the highest one-day tally anywhere, as its second wave and similar surges elsewhere raised new fears about the ability of health services to cope.

Hospitals across northern and western India including the capital, New Delhi, have issued notices to say they have only a few hours of medical oxygen required to keep COVID-19 patients alive.

More than two-thirds of hospitals had no vacant beds, according to the Delhi government’s online data base and doctors advised patients to stay at home.

«The situation is very critical,» Dr Kirit Gadhvi, president of the Medical Association in the western city of Ahmedabad, told Reuters.

«Patients are struggling to get beds in COVID-19 hospitals. There is especially acute shortage of oxygen.»

Krutika Kuppalli, assistant professor at the Division of Infectious Diseases, Medical University of South Carolina in the United States, said on Twitter the crisis was leading to a collapse of the healthcare system.

The previous record one-day rise in cases was held by the United States, which had 297,430 new cases on one day in January, though its tally has since fallen sharply.

India’s total cases are now at 15.93 million, while deaths rose by 2,104 to reach a total of 184,657, according to the latest health ministry data.

Television showed images of people with empty oxygen cylinders crowding refilling facilities in the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh as they scrambled to save relatives in hospital.

«We never thought a second wave would hit us so hard,» Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, the executive chairman of Biocon & Biocon Biologics, an Indian healthcare firm, wrote in the Economic Times.

«Complacency led to unanticipated shortages of medicines, medical supplies and hospital beds.»

Similar surges of infections elsewhere, in South America in particular, are threatening to overwhelm other health services.

India has launched a vaccination drive but only a tiny fraction of the population has had the shots.

Authorities have announced that vaccines will be available to anyone over the age of 18 from May 1 but India won’t have enough shots for the 600 million people who will become eligible, experts say.

Health experts said India had let its guard down when the virus seemed to be under control during the winter, when new daily cases were about 10,000, and it lifted restrictions to allow big gatherings.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has come in for criticism for holding packed political rallies for local elections and allowing a religious festival at which millions gathered.

On Thursday, despite the biggest public health emergency the country has faced in a generation, people were voting in the eastern state of West Bengal for a new state assembly in an election that Modi has been campaigning in.

«It’s a festival of democracy and everyone is participating. You can see the queues,» said Krishna Kalyan, a candidate from Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Experts say new variants, in particular a «double mutant» variant that originated in India are largely responsible for the new spikes in cases.

«The double mutant … is considerably more infectious than the older strain of virus,» said Gautam I. Menon, a professor at Ashoka University.»

1:30 PM

Farm exports rose 16.9% in April-Feb. FY21

India exported agricultural commodities worth ₹2.74 lakh crore till February of the 2020-21 fiscal, a 16.9% increase from ₹2.31 lakh crore in the year earlier, notwithstanding the pandemic, the agriculture ministry said on Wednesday.

Similarly, imports of agriculture and allied commodities increased by 3% to ₹1,41,034 crore during the April-February period of 2020-21 from ₹1,37,014 crore in the year earlier period. Despite COVID-19, balance of trade in agriculture has favourably increased to ₹1,32,579.69 crore from ₹93,907.76 crore in the said period, the ministry said in a statement.

“India has consistently maintained trade surplus in the agricultural products over the years. …Even during the difficult time of the pandemic, India took care not to disturb the world food supply chain and continued to export,” the ministry said.


1:00 PM

Ratan Tata invests in Mailit

Mailit, a mail room management and logistics company, said it had received an unspecified amount as investment from Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus, Tata Sons.

The firm offers courier, cargo, 3PL, mail room management digital solutions and postal services to leading corporates and several companies in the Tata group.

It said it would focus on consolidating the entire value chain thereby reducing the overall logistics and distribution costs. In doing this, it would bring disruptive changes to the logistics landscape, it said.

The company plans to start 500 mail rooms across India, in addition to establishing fully mechanised warehouse and distribution centres in the next five years.


12:30 PM

Sales of EVs in India fell 20% in FY’21 to 2,36,802 units: SMEV

A setback for the electric vehicles industry.

PTI reports: «Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicle (SMEV) on Thursday said sales of EVs in India fell 20 per cent in the financial year 2020-21 to 2,36,802 units.

In 2019-20 sales of electric vehicles (EVs), including electric two-wheelers (E2W), electric three-wheelers (E3W) and electric four-wheelers (E4W), stood at 2,95,683 units.

For FY21, the E2W segment sales declined by 6 per cent to 1,43,837 units, as compared to 1,52,000 units in FY20, SMEV said in a statement, adding that the FY21 E2W sales included 40,836 high-speed and 1,03,000 low-speed E2W.

The E3W segment registered sales of 88,378 units as against 140,683 units sold in FY20. The data doesn’t include E3Ws that are not registered with the transport authority, it said.

In the E4W segment, the industry witnessed registration of 4,588 units, compared to 3,000 units in FY20, a jump of 53 per cent.

Commenting on the sales performance, SMEV Director-General Sohinder Gill said, «we were anticipating a good growth before the start of FY21, but sales remained stagnant due to various reasons. The sales in the electric three-wheeler and two-wheeler segment stood low as compared to last year.» A good thing has happened that people have started moving towards advanced lithium ion batteries and the city-speed and high-speed category in the two-wheeler segment have witnessed growth, he added.

«However, a lot more needs to be done to achieve the target under the FAME II scheme. Timely intervention by the government in a form of policy change is required to fuel the growth and achieve the target by the end of FY22,» Gill asserted.

SMEV said a strong bank finance mechanism for EVs is still missing with only a few banks like SBI and Axis, offering loans on select models. The government should ask banks to offer loans on EVs to augment sales.

It, however, said the future of EV in the B2B sector is positive with a lot of traction coming from this segment for the next 2-3 years with the likes of Amazon India and Flipkart announcing that they will deploy EVs in their fleet of delivery vehicles.

The EV industry body also pointed out that while many states, including Delhi, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, have rolled out their EV policy, some states are yet to implement the policy.

«The early implementation of state-level policy could assist in creating a larger ecosystem in the country that would help the industry to grow at a much faster pace,» it said adding the state government policy should be focused on demand generation for the initial period that would help in getting more volumes on the road.

In terms of charging infrastructure, SMEV said there has been rapid improvement with around 1,300 charging stations set up till now.

«Many corporates have ventured into the segment and started installing charging stations across the country. We anticipate that in the next 5-6 years, we would be able to create robust charging infrastructure in the country,» it said.»

12:00 PM

Oil falls 3rd day on U.S. stock build, surging COVID-19 cases

Another bad day for oil.

Reuters reports: «Oil prices fell for a third day on Thursday as a surprise build in U.S. crude inventories and a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in India and Japan raised concerns that a recovery in global economy and fuel demand may slow.

Brent crude futures fell 57 cents, or 0.9%, to $64.75 a barrel by 0157 GMT, following a drop of $1.25 on Wednesday. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 58 cents, or 1.0%, at $60.77 a barrel, after losing $1.32 on Wednesday.

Both contracts dropped more than 2% on Wednesday, closing at their lowest since April 13. They are down more than 3% so far this week.

U.S. crude oil stockpiles unexpectedly edged higher in the week ended on April 16, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday, confirming American Petroleum Institute data from the day before.

«Oil prices have been under pressure this week due to growing worries that surging number of COVID-19 cases in India and Japan will slow a recovery in fuel demand in Asia,» said Toshitaka Tazawa, an analyst at commodities broker Fujitomi Co.

«The market sentiment was further battered by the EIA’s weekly data that showed an increase in U.S. crude oil.»

India, the world’s third-largest oil user, on Wednesday reported another record increase in its daily death toll from COVID-19. Japan, the world’s No.4 oil importer, is considering a state of emergency for Tokyo and Osaka as new case numbers surge, broadcaster NHK reported.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies led by Russia, a producer group known as OPEC+, are heading for a largely technical meeting next week in which major changes to policy are unlikely, Russian Deputy Prime Minister and OPEC+ sources said.

«Earlier this week, the market rose briefly on news of Libya’s force majeure on exports, but concerns over the spread of the pandemic in Asia are outweighing the Libya’s news now,» Fujitomi’s Tazawa said.

Libya’s National Oil Corp (NOC) declared force majeure on Monday on exports from the port of Hariga and said it could extend the measure to other facilities due to a budget dispute with the country’s central bank.»

11:30 AM

ICICI Securities shares jump over 6% after strong Q4 earnings 

Today’s big mover.

PTI reports: «Shares of ICICI Securities jumped 6.5 per cent in morning trade on Thursday after the company reported an over two-fold increase in profit after tax (PAT) for the three months ended March 2021.

The stock gained 6.51 per cent to Rs 451.80 on the BSE.

At the NSE, it jumped 6.45 per cent to Rs 452.

ICICI Securities on Wednesday reported an over two-fold increase in PAT to Rs 329 crore for the three months ended March 2021, on account of growth in revenue and improvement in margins.

In comparison, the company had posted a PAT of Rs 156 crore in the same quarter of the preceding fiscal, ICICI Securities said in a statement.

The company attributed the surge in quarterly profit to growth in revenue and improvement in margins.

Its revenue climbed 53 per cent to Rs 739 crore in the quarter under review, from Rs 482 crore in the three months ended March 31, 2020.

The growth in revenue was aided by strong performance of equities and allied operations, along with distribution, private wealth management and investment banking businesses, it added.

ICICI Securities, a subsidiary of ICICI Bank, is a leading retail-led equity franchise, distributor of financial products, and investment bank.»

11:00 AM

Rupee slips below 75/USD level in early trade

The rupee continues to be weak.

PTI reports: «The rupee opened on a weak note and fell below the 75 per US dollar level in early trade on Thursday as investors fretted over the prospects of stricter lockdown in some parts of the country amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Moreover, foreign fund outflows, and heavy selling in domestic equities weighed on the domestic currency.

At the interbank foreign exchange, the rupee opened at 75.25 then lost further ground and fell to 75.26 against the US dollar, showing a decline of 38 paise over its previous closing.

The Indian rupee on Tuesday had closed at 74.88 against the US dollar.

Meanwhile, the dollar index, which gauges the greenback’s strength against a basket of six currencies, fell 0.04 per cent to 91.12.

Forex and equity markets were closed on Wednesday on account of ‘Ram Navami’.

The rupee started on a weaker note against the US dollar as stricter restrictions in Maharashtra to curb the spread of the virus could hamper the recovery of the economy from the pandemic, Reliance Securities said in a research note.

The weakness in the local unit could continue through the session weighed down by another round of dollar bids by speculators and importers, the note said adding that «RBI could be present to curb volatility in the markets.» Meanwhile, Brent crude futures, the global oil benchmark, fell 0.46 per cent to USD 65.02 per barrel.

Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) remained net sellers in the capital markets, pulling out Rs 1,082.33 crore on Tuesday, as per provisional data.

Domestic bourses were trading on a lacklustre note with benchmark indices Sensex trading 196.98 points down at 47,508.82 and Nifty down 49.75 points at 14,246.65.»

10:30 AM

Care Ratings lowers FY22 GDP forecast to 10.2%

Care Ratings has lowered its India GDP growth forecast to 10.2% for FY22 following fresh lockdowns imposed in parts of the country to control the pandemic.

On March 24, it had projected growth for FY22 to be in the 11-11.2% range based on Gross Value Added (GVA) growth of 10.2%, and on April 5, a day after Maharashtra imposed restrictions, it further lowered its GDP forecast to 10.7-10.9%.

“With conditions changing very swiftly it does become imperative to revisit these numbers more often to get a better sense of the future; and the picture shows a 1% dip from our forecast on March 24, 2021,” it added.

Earlier this month the RBI had stuck to its FY22 GDP forecast of 10.5% despite the surge in infections.


10:00 AM

Indian shares drop as fresh coronavirus cases hit record high

Could be another bad day in the offering for investors.

Reuters reports: «Indian shares dropped on Thursday as the country’s medical system groaned under an unrelenting rise in coronavirus cases, after it reported record jumps in daily infections and deaths.

The NSE Nifty 50 index fell 0.64% to 14,204.15 by 0400 GMT, while the S&P BSE Sensex declined 0.68% to 47,372.15.

In early trade, both the indexes fell as much as 1% to hit their lowest in nearly three months as a surge in COVID-19 cases and related restrictions threatened to stifle the country’s nascent economic recovery.

India reported over 300,000 fresh coronavirus infections on Thursday, the highest daily rise anywhere in the world, while deaths from COVID-19 also jumped by a record.

At least 24 COVID-19 patients died in Nashik city in Maharashtra on Wednesday after the oxygen supply to their ventilators ran out, amid a nationwide shortage of the gas.»

9:30 AM

Wait and watch, FM tells industry on second wave

Assuring industry of ‘full government support’, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said India Inc. must ‘wait and watch’ as the second wave of COVID-19 plays out. She added that the PM’s address and new vaccination norms would add ‘a sense of reassurance’.

“With all these steps, we should hope to see a positive change in the way the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic is moving,” she said in a meeting with the FICCI national executive.

“I would request the industry to watch the next few days a bit more carefully, and then assess for yourself what this quarter is going to be like,” the minister added.


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