Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

Private life insurance companies still struggling

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

The Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) has again come to the rescue of the industry in the financial year ending July 2012. While 23 private players together have a marginal dip in business (-1 pct), LIC has powered ahead with 23 pct growth in new business premium collection.

I sometimes wonder how this is possible. How is it that LIC manages to stay ahead most of the time. “Frequent changes in regulations” is what we hear most when we try to assign a reason for the dip in business for private life insurance companies.

In spite of a being such a large organisation with an equally large agent force, LIC seems to be able to come up on top. Surely, the changes in regulations are much more difficult to drive down with such a large agent force. And given the changes in regulations and the cut in commission levels of some products, it would have been quite a task to motivate and direct the large agent force. A more detailed analysis on this probably at a later date.

Overseas cues to drive market but policy paralysis may cap gains

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(The views expressed in this column are his own and do not represent those of Reuters)

The European Central Bank (ECB) came to the rescue of world markets including India, which had a spirited rally on Friday to wipe out the losses of the past two weeks. The rally continued during the special session on Saturday to close the week at 5359, gaining about 1.9 pct. The week started on a positive note due to the recommendation on General Anti-Avoidance Rules (GAAR) dilution but failed to maintain momentum due to various disappointing data points as well as the political imbroglio.

Rating downgrade a credible threat for India

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(Rajiv Deep Bajaj is the Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Bajaj Capital Ltd. The views expressed in this column are his own and do not represent those of Reuters)

Indian stock markets have hardly gone anywhere since June, with the Nifty hovering in the 8-9 pct range. But the coming months may see a breakout of this range as volatility, as measured by the India VIX index, seems to be rebounding from four-year lows, after having fallen for three months in a row. A short-term break, out of the range, on the downside seems more probable.

Economic consequences of deadlock in Parliament

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

The monsoon session of Parliament has been a washout without any important business being transacted. This has been made out to be a political strategy on the part of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to force early elections. Obviously, the Congress-led coalition is unlikely to oblige. The unintended victim is the economy which has been stopped from getting back to growth.

Indian markets stuck in a rut

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

It’s now been close to four years since domestic and global financial markets have been in a state of flux, plagued by uncertainty, as a slowdown ensures that government after government revises its growth forecast downwards.

GAAR-supported bounceback tough to sustain

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

A reversal after four weeks of gains saw the Nifty closing 2.38 pct lower at 5258. The mid-cap segment of the market caved in earlier with the large caps holding fort till Thursday. The Parliament logjam continued on the “Coalgate” issue and hopes of any worthwhile business being conducted in this monsoon session are dim. Given the political scenario, the war-rooms of political parties are getting into election mode, which could be earlier than 2014. This too will hardly raise hopes for Indian markets as the electorate seems too fractured to have a strong government which would have the ability to push through reforms, including non-populist ones.

Challenging times but hopes of recovery after 2014 polls

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(Rajan Ghotgalkar is Managing Director of Principal Pnb Asset Management Company. The views expressed in this column are his own and do not represent those of either Principal Pnb or Reuters)

These are possibly the most challenging times for India because, simply put, every goal post seems to be oscillating.

Liquidity reigns supreme as market ignores data points

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The Nifty crossed 5350 levels last week after nearly three months with strong buying by FIIs, closing about two pct higher at 5320. Stronger than expected U.S. payroll data, positive cues from the  euro zone and comments from Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram assuring to unveil a path of fiscal consolidation and undertake remedial measures to revive the domestic economy, boosted investor sentiment.

However, negative IIP data along with weak corporate results disappointed the markets in the latter half of the week, causing the indices to trim some of the earlier gains.

What money can buy

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By Raghuram Rajan
The opinions expressed are his own

In an interesting recent book, What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of the Market, the Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel points to the range of things that money can buy in modern societies and gently tries to stoke our outrage at the market’s growing dominance. Is he right that we should be alarmed?

While Sandel worries about the corrupting nature of some monetized transactions (do kids really develop a love of reading if they are bribed to read books?), he is also concerned about unequal access to money, which makes trades using money inherently unequal. More generally, he fears that the expansion of anonymous monetary exchange erodes social cohesion, and argues for reducing money’s role in society.

Overseas cues to drive the market but limited upside

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A positive week for the markets saw volatility in a narrow band with Nifty gaining about 115 points to close at 5216, a gain of about 2.25 pct. The midcaps and small caps outperformed the frontline stocks indicating retail interest.

FIIs continued with their buying spree lapping up about US$ 535 million worth of stocks. The new finance minister  Palaniappan Chidambaram was given a thumbs up but expectations of any radical move are low especially after the disappointment from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the last fortnight.

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