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from Expert Zone:

India Markets Weekahead: It’s time again for an election year ‘rally of hope’

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Despite a volatile Friday, it was a good week for the markets and saw the Nifty close about 90 points higher at 6,261, with sentiment supported by better-than-expected quarterly results and benign inflation data.

The few earnings that disappointed investors seemed to affect specific stocks without having a bearing on either the sector or the markets.

Politics took centrestage last week with the All India Congress Committee anointing Rahul Gandhi as campaign leader for general elections this year. The Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi seemed to be in hibernation, possibly preparing a fresh strategy after the Aam Aadmi Party's strong showing in the Delhi state elections.

With just about two months before the financial year ends, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram is on an overdrive to ensure he sticks to his promise of maintaining fiscal deficit below 4.8 percent of India's GDP. Though the Powergrid FPO was a success, the proposed divestment in Indian Oil was blocked by a ministerial panel. The divestment in Hindustan Zinc, through an auction, would also be important to achieve the finance minister's target.

from India Insight:

Interview: Congress session will lead to changes – Sachin Pilot

After years in the shadows as a reluctant heir-apparent, Rahul Gandhi is set for his own tryst with destiny, to lead the ruling Congress party in elections due by May that it has only a slim chance of winning.

Reuters spoke to Sachin Pilot, the country’s corporate affairs minister, on the Congress party's strategy for the 2014 election, Rahul Gandhi’s style of working and the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

from India Insight:

In pursuit of the perfect lehenga in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk

Each evening, after pulling their shutters down, sari salesmen in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk market sit down for three hours to fold their wares: embroidered, embellished saris and lehengas that customers browsed all day.

Lehengas, embroidered and pleated long skirts, are serious business in Chandni Chowk, a busy Mughal-era market whose name means “moonlit square”. Despite numerous boutiques and malls opening across New Delhi, the old wedding market has kept its charm, its customers and its business.

from Breakingviews:

Another reason to be gloomy about emerging markets

By Andy Mukherjee

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Investors have another reason to wrinkle their noses at emerging economies: fading labour productivity.

from Expert Zone:

How much will U.S. recovery help India?

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

After a prolonged slowdown, the U.S. economy is finally showing signs of recovery though much of it comes from investment in inventories and may not be sustained at the present high rate.

The United States is the largest economy with a share of more than 22 percent in the world GDP. Naturally, even small changes in its behaviour have a perceptible impact worldwide. To India, the United States counts for a lot, although possibly less than it does for China.

from The Human Impact:

Gender injustice: When Indian judges get it wrong

An Indian judge who called pre-marital sex "immoral" and against "the tenets of every religion" has been criticised by activists who say his remarks highlight gender insensitivity within the judiciary and the challenges faced by victims of sex crimes in seeking justice.

Judge Virender Bhat, who presides over a fast-track court which hears cases of sexual offences, made the remarks after ruling in one case that there was insufficient evidence that a man had duped a woman into having sex with him by promising marriage.

from Expert Zone:

U.S.-India dispute: A diplomat and a double-standard laid bare

(The following essay is commentary. The views of the author do not necessarily reflect those of Reuters)

Relations between the United States and India have crashed to their lowest ebb since the last millennium, something many Americans might have missed during the holiday buzz.  A spat over the treatment of a diplomat and her maid threatens the foundations of a key international partnership, and the implications extend far beyond foreign policy. This case could endanger American diplomats, businesspeople and tourists travelling abroad.

from India Insight:

Interview: BJP’s Harsh Vardhan slams AAP-Congress alliance in Delhi

By Aditya Kalra and Sankalp Phartiyal

India's Congress party and the upstart Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) entered an "unholy alliance" to share power in Delhi following state elections in the national capital, the chief ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said in an interview on Dec. 31.

Harsh Vardhan, who lost the race for chief minister of the capital region to AAP founder Arvind Kejriwal, said he thinks that the Congress party and the AAP had “some sort of understanding” before the elections. He offered no proof. Spokesmen for the AAP and the Congress party denied these charges.

from India Insight:

Equity funds underperform Sensex for first time since 2008

India’s diversified equity mutual funds rose in 2013 but underperformed the broader markets for the first time in five years, as returns were dampened by the losses in the mid- and small-cap shares as well as financial companies.

These funds gained 4.8 percent on average in 2013, according to data from fund tracker Lipper, delivering lesser annual returns than the benchmark BSE Sensex after 2008.  The Sensex touched life highs in 2013 and ended 9 percent higher, boosted by foreign inflows of more than $20 billion.

from Breakingviews:

India’s Common Man Party is investors’ frenemy

By Andy Mukherjee

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The sudden rise of India’s self-professed “anti-establishment” party is making seasoned politicians nervous. Investors, meanwhile, view the dramatic ascent of the Aam Aadmi – Common Man Party - with a mixture of awe and suspicion.

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