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India’s decade of decay

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(This piece comes from Project Syndicate. The opinions expressed are the author’s own)

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has been in office since 2004, recently held what was only the second press conference of his current five-year term, which is rapidly approaching an inglorious end. Betraying his yearning for approval, Singh told the assembled journalists that he hoped that history would judge his tenure more kindly than his political adversaries do.

That outcome seems unlikely, at best. On the contrary, Singh’s once-great Congress party is now at a political impasse, from which it can escape only if it frees itself from its destructive dynastic leadership. After more than a half-century in government – much of India’s modern life as an independent country – the era of Congress dominance appears to be over.

Perhaps the clearest indication of the party’s decline occurred in December, when it suffered crushing defeats in four key state-assembly elections. In Rajasthan, Congress won only 21 seats, while India’s second-largest political force, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), won 162. This represents a massive shift from the 2008 election, when Congress gained 96 seats, compared to the BJP’s 78.

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

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(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.

How much will U.S. recovery help India?

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(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.

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

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(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.

The fear of “L”

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(This piece comes from Project Syndicate. The opinions expressed are the author’s own)

For the last few years, economists have been running through the alphabet to describe the shape of the long-awaited recovery — starting with an optimistic V, proceeding to a more downbeat U, and ending up at a despairing W. But now a deeper anxiety is beginning to stalk the profession: the fear of what I call an “L-shaped” recovery.

The return of the ugly American

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(This piece comes from Project Syndicate. The opinions expressed are the author’s own)

Nearly a month after American authorities arrested India’s deputy consul general in New York, Devyani Khobragade, outside her children’s school and charged her with paying her Indian domestic worker a salary below the minimum wage, bilateral relations remain tense. India’s government has reacted with fury to the mistreatment of an official enjoying diplomatic immunity, and public indignation has been widespread and nearly unanimous. So, has an era of steadily improving ties between the two countries come to an end?

India Markets Weekahead: Driven by hope in an election-led rally

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

The New Year was ushered in with a steep and sudden correction in the broader indexes, with the Nifty closing 1.63 percent lower at 6,211. However, the mid-cap and small-cap indexes outperformed.

Though the holiday mood was evident, it was a politically charged week. The newly installed Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi won a confidence motion with the support of the Congress. They subsequently announced power subsidies after granting water sops last week. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed a rare press conference, the third in 10 years, announcing his intent of handing over the baton to a new prime minister.

Will 2014 be any better for investors?

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

High inflation, low GDP growth and a sharp depreciation in the rupee led to subdued returns of 6.8 percent for the Nifty in 2013.

The core sectors — steel, cement, industrials, energy, infrastructure and capital goods — continued their poor performance and hence valuations shrunk, while consumer staples, IT, pharma and private sector financials bucked the trend. But the polarisation towards a few sectors underscores growing risk aversion.

The year 2013 in perspective

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

The economy was already in distress before 2013, but with no significant action by the government and increased pressure from external sources resulted in more danger signals. It is now doubtful whether the economy will recover in the current fiscal.

The rot began in 2011. It took hardly two-and-a-half years to bring down the growth from 8.8 percent to 4.5 percent. The monsoon was good but badly distributed with the result that the summer crop did not show much improvement.  Industry is amidst stagnation with zero growth in April- October. The capital goods sector has been hit the hardest because investment declined, while the only silver lining was the improvement in external trade. Exports increased and imports declined which brought down the CAD to less than 2 percent of GDP.

India Markets Weekahead: Investors to remain bullish in election season

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

A surprise decision by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to keep the repo rate unchanged and a dovish statement from Ben Bernanke in his last news conference as U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman improved sentiment with the Nifty closing 106 points higher at 6,274.

Markets tottered for three days during the week amid fears the Nifty could break a crucial support zone between 6,120 and 6,140. Investors had discounted a 25 bps hike in monetary policy based on inflation numbers that were the highest in 14 months. RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan should be lauded for taking a practical stance as food inflation is expected to cool considerably in December due to improved supplies and the monsoon effect.

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