Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

Why the RBI preferred an SLR cut

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

The first quarter review of monetary policy did not create any ripples. The stock market remained flat and investors and consumers showed little interest. That was because RBI Governor Duvvuri Subbarao had made enough noise earlier that the time was not right and conditions were not suitable for a rate cut.

Time is not right simply because the original cause for the increase in the rate still persists. Inflation is what the RBI had set out to correct. Even in June, it was well over 7 percent and would quite likely scale up further with the monsoon being late and irregular and consequently agricultural production likely to drop.

The RBI did not have to wait for two and a half years to realise that repo is not really the solution to inflation. The RBI had targeted repo because the interest rate that the banks charge remains above the inflation rate. The real rate of interest — as the difference between the two is called — has to be positive to ensure that people do not give up their savings habit and debtors are not subsidised by creditors.

Not so easy for India to come out of the dark

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

Many words have been used to describe the power outages that put half of India in the dark this week: embarrassing, catastrophic, the worst the world has seen. While all of these may be true, the blackout also embodied the dire situation the country could be headed to without the necessary reforms to modernise its economic infrastructure. To be sure, it is not a lack of vision that would lead India to similar potential disasters in the future, but a lack of political will.

Selling insurance through kirana stores

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

India is considered to be a large untapped market for insurance products. There seems to be enough scope for improvement on the insurance density and insurance penetration counts for the country. While this is true, the challenge lies in reaching out to the large population in the rural areas where the traditional financial distribution channels just don’t make economic sense.

Hopes fade as investors await concrete action

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

It was an action-packed week for the markets but not for the reasons we had anticipated. Manmohan Singh’s government, which was expected to announce a string of policy action steps starting with a diesel price hike, failed to make any announcements which would have cheered markets.

Consequences of an export squeeze

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

In June, exports shrank more than five percent to $25 billion largely due to recessionary conditions in major importing countries such as the U.S. and the EU. Although exports are not as critical to us as they are to Singapore or China, they do count for a lot.

Opting for lean and mean armies

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

The British army is being cut to size, or perhaps, being stripped to its bones. The British defence secretary has announced a 20 percent cut, reducing its strength to 82,000 combatants by the end of the decade.

Get set for an action-packed week

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

Markets continued to display weakness during the week except for a spirited, though limited, rally on July 18 after the UPA convinced belligerent ally Mamata Banerjee to fall in line for the presidential elections. The Nifty lost 0.4 pct to close the week at 5205 on political worries after the NCP, another government ally, expressed dissatisfaction with its functioning.

The growth versus inflation dilemma

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

The RBI is concerned about inflation; the finance ministry has growth as its priority. That, as RBI Governor D. Subbarao mentioned, makes the two almost look like adversaries.

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.

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.

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