Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

Decoding political risk no mean feat

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

Politics is playing a dominant role in financial markets today — and generally speaking, investors do not like it. Political risk is an additional layer of uncertainty that has to be factored in while making investment decisions. Because political risk is intimately linked with the uncertainties of human behaviour, the impact of political risk can at times seem to be almost random. After over two decades as a professional economist, I can assert that forecasting economies is tough. Trying to forecast what politicians are going to do is even worse.

Consider how politics in one part of the world can have repercussions on the other side of the globe. Chinese politics has impacted the most unusual areas this year. China as a country is relatively poor. China is also a society that is relatively unequal in terms of its income distribution. Estimates put the number of Chinese millionaires at around 1.4 million, the second highest number in the world — which means that the Chinese market for luxury brands is important. Or rather, it was.

The politics surrounding the Bo Xilai affair has led to a change of policy in China. The Xinhua news agency reports there are new rules restricting official spending on vehicles, overseas trips and other areas that might be termed “luxury spending”. Associated with that, the practice of gift giving has declined. The result is a poor outlook for luxury brand sales in China at the moment, arising from local political pressures. Investors who thought luxury good producers would benefit from the nouveau riche of China are now likely to be disappointed, and it is all due to politics.

Markets await rollout of policy action

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

We saw some tiredness in the markets with subdued optimism as compared to the previous 4-5 weeks as the bouncebacks were not as sharp and strong. The Nifty tended to close at the lower end of the band at 5227, a fall of about 80 points. A major disappointment during the week was the below-expectation result from IT bellwether Infosys followed by a lower annual guidance.

The enigma of diesel prices

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

Budget considerations make it necessary to raise prices of diesel; political exigencies make that difficult. No wonder Chief Economic Adviser Kaushik Basu was cautious enough to suggest ‘partial decontrol’. But the present is the time to do more than that.

Is inequality inhibiting growth?

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By Raghuram Rajan
The opinions expressed are his own

To understand how to achieve a sustained recovery from the Great Recession, we need to understand its causes. And identifying causes means starting with the evidence.

Two facts stand out. First, overall demand for goods and services is much weaker, both in Europe and the United States, than it was in the go-go years before the recession. Second, most of the economic gains in the U.S. in recent years have gone to the rich, while the middle class has fallen behind in relative terms.

What’s right with India

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

Whenever I pick up a newspaper or a magazine — especially The Economist — I keep reading pieces about what’s wrong with India. Corruption is rampant, the infrastructure, what there is of it, is falling to bits, the government is senile and feeble and the economy is flagging — and so on. All of which may be true — but it rather depends on your perspective.

FDI in insurance — to hike or not to hike?

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

FDI in insurance might just be increased to 49 pct. This sounds way too familiar and has been the situation for quite a long time now. Or we could do some scenario building and even see it being delayed by a few more years.

Great potential in India long-term growth story

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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)

Reforms seem to be the flavour of the season after we relished and put aside the corruption issue.

India Market Weekahead – Time to book partial profits

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

A stupendous rally towards the end of June was followed by consolidation in the first week of July. Though the benchmark Nifty index ranged in a narrow band of 60 points between 5270 and 5330, the broader market especially the mid-caps were in focus with some of them returning more than 20 pct during the week. After a long time we saw domestic investors returning to the equity markets albeit with a lower risk appetite.

Bashing China won’t fix U.S. economy

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

Both ends of the political spectrum seem to be competing to be tougher on China economic issues. They’re both wrong.

Fukushima disaster report: relevance of cultural traits

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

The first report of the three major investigations commissioned by the Japanese government into the Fukushima nuclear disaster of March 2011 was released in Tokyo on Thursday. The findings of the investigation, chaired by Dr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa challenged the dominant assumption that this tragedy unfolded due to a confluence of natural calamities of tectonic proportion — namely a tsunami and an earthquake — and concluded that Fukushima was alas, ‘man-made’ and occurred due to “a multitude of errors and wilful negligence” that implicated the government, safety regulators and the operator of the nuclear plant.

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