Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

India-Pakistan border flare-up a zero-sum game

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

At places along the Line of Control (LoC), barely a wire separates the Indian soldier and his Pakistani counterpart. The genesis of the recent flare-up was the killing of five Indian soldiers on the Indian side of the LoC. The media blitz in Delhi found more fodder with a spike in infiltration attempts and exchange of fire beyond the LoC at posts across the international border.

Hostilities reached their peak with the detection and elimination of a rather large group of infiltrators in the Keran sector north of Srinagar. In between, the militant groups in Kashmir valley seemed to have drawn inspiration and staged a well-executed attack on a police post and an army unit in Jammu and Kashmir, deep inside Indian territory.

What are the possible reasons for this spurt? Are these tactical with local commanders acting in isolation, or do they reflect a strategic design?

Need to rebalance RBI’s interest structure

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

In its mid-quarterly monetary policy review last month, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) made some hasty changes in the interest structure. The repo rate was raised possibly because of the rise in inflation and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate was cut after the rupee recovered against the dollar. The interest structure is still lopsided with short rates exceeding long rates. This anomaly needs to be corrected.

It is believed that the economy is susceptible to a rundown when short rates exceed long rates. A further slowdown, in any case, needs to be prevented and is quite feasible since the compelling conditions that necessitated an interest hike have been contained. There is now enough room for the RBI to restore balance.

Invisible hand of market at work

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

India’s economic situation is at least grave, if not exactly in dire straits. Growth is at a decadal low, consumer inflation is persistently high, jobs have never been as scarce, the currency is volatile and the investment cycle is showing no signs of revival. Many of these problems are a result of bad policy and global economic conditions, but several are also the outcome of a natural economic cycle.

Rupee should not harden further

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

The rupee has recovered over the past few weeks after falling to a record low of 68.85 per dollar in August. After a period of unease, the finance ministry and the Reserve Bank of India can now take it a little easy. But care needs to be taken that the rupee is not driven up further.

Speculation about the end of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s bond-buying programme in May affected global currencies and the rupee was not alone in this predicament. The announcement had created a scare about the tapering of quantitative easing. That would have dried up liquidity that the market had got used to. The Brazilian real, Indonesian rupiah, and the Indian rupee were the principal losers.

India Markets Weekahead: Investors should wait for a correction to buy

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

Markets continued a strong rally to close the week around 3 percent higher. After the partial U.S. shutdown was confirmed and triggered speculation over the postponement of QE tapering, a weakening dollar and the rupee’s subsequent appreciation also helped lift the mood.

Though the current account deficit for the first quarter was a better-than-expected 4.9 percent, IIP data that came in after market hours on Friday showed India’s industrial production had slowed to a dismal 0.6 percent in August. This suggests that buoyancy in the stock markets was driven by liquidity and sentiment, while things are different on the ground.

SEBI tries to get it REIT again

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

Ease of funding is a key recommendation for the growth and development of the Indian realty sector in the coming decade. New instruments of funding should be allowed into the sector, especially real estate investment trusts (REITs) — an investment mechanism that buys income-generating real estate assets and passes on the yield to investors.

In this current climate of dwindling investor sentiment and a plunging rupee, there is a need to implement funding options such as REITs for infusing much needed liquidity into the sector. The total REIT market size in the Asia-Pacific region is approximately $205 billion but India has been unable to take advantage of this funding opportunity, mainly because of the lack of an existing regulatory framework.

Terrano might just be the ace up Nissan’s sleeve

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

I could have said the Terrano — Nissan’s compact SUV — is a glorified and beautified Renault Duster, but Nissan isn’t silly to invest money and effort to market a product already in the market.

The Terrano gets the distinctive front grille treatment of a Nissan SUV. When you walk around to the rear, you will see that the tail lamps extend into the hatch — a departure from the now familiar look of the Duster — which helps conceal its mass and heaviness. The bumpers have also been changed to give the Terrano a bit more up-market appeal. Judging by its looks, the Terrano looks a lot more modern and aggressive while the Duster is rather plain.

Rajan panel proposals not a cure for disparity among states

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

The report of a committee headed by Raghuram Rajan on backward states has drawn attention to development disparities among states in India. Not that these were not known or assessed before. The report offers an index for identification of states according to the degree of backwardness and their share of financial assistance from the central government.

The committee’s recommendations, even if efficiently implemented, are not likely to show results soon. The per capita income in Bihar, for example, is a fourth of the per capita income of Goa and half that of Gujarat. But it is encouraging that GDP growth in backward states has recently accelerated and, to some extent, reduced the income gap. It took place because state governments realized that growth counts politically, not because of any additional assistance from the central government.

India Markets Weekahead: Lack of positive triggers in the near term

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

Indian markets are in a corrective phase after RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan’s monetary policy review on Sept. 20 put a damper on investor expectations. If Rajan had played to the galleries, we would have seen a stock market bubble. The move from pessimism to euphoria — a rally of nearly 20 percent in less than three weeks — without any perceptible change in ground realities, would have led to a bull trap. Though participation levels were not high, FIIs had turned buyers and it would have been a matter of time before dormant market participants jumped into the fray.

Barclays is the latest to cut India’s GDP forecast to 4.7 percent. Most of the others have cut their forecast to below 5 percent although the government is still hoping for an early recovery. The banking sector was under pressure after Fitch cut its rating for a number of public sector banks such as Punjab National Bank, Bank of Baroda and Indian Bank.

Was the repo rate hike necessary?

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The decision of the U.S. Federal Reserve to delay tapering its bond purchases cheered markets, and more so in India because they were convinced of a second bonanza from the RBI. But new Governor Raghuram Rajan gave the markets a jolt by turning hawkish and increasing the repo rate.

The gains of the previous day following the Fed meeting were nearly wiped out and the rupee, which was steadily crawling towards 60 to the dollar, also fell back. The only reason why the RBI increased the repo rate was the revival of inflation, which had dropped to less than 5 percent in April-June.

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