Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

Food prices matter: here’s why

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

Investors are cautiously starting to examine the topic of food price inflation once again. The United States recently saw a sharp rise in producer price food inflation. Further down the economic development ladder, producer prices for the food manufacturing industry of China have been steadily creeping higher from the lows reached two years ago.

A vendor weighs potatoes for a customer at a vegetable wholesale market along a roadside in the old quarters of Delhi April 15, 2014. REUTERS/Anindito MukherjeeFood prices in Japan have increased at the fastest pace in four years, helped by the weaker yen. Korean producer price inflation for food products has been rising for a year. Food producer price inflation for Malaysia has edged up.

So far only the United Kingdom and the Euro area have clearly defied this drift towards higher prices. In the Euro area, the economic recovery is still relatively weak so labour costs and consumer demand are both subdued. The stronger Euro has also helped to lower agricultural commodity prices in Euro terms. That combination suggests more subdued domestic food price inflation. The United Kingdom does not have quite the same situation (although the pound sterling has been relatively strong), but food price restraint receives the added incentive of a general election next year – food pricing is a politically sensitive topic.

The rupee at a crossroads

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

The rupee was tossed around quite a bit in the last 10 months. It dropped to a low of nearly 69 to the dollar, creating an economic crisis, before it recovered and is now at 59-60. The threat is not that it may drop once again, but that it may appreciate further and upset the economy in other ways.

Why would the rupee appreciate? Because there are expectations the Narendra Modi government will facilitate development and enable the economy to get back on course. This is what drove the Sensex beyond 25,000. But the currency market was more stable in spite of the huge inflow of $2.2 billion in 10 trading days of May.

Debating India’s election cheat sheets

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

As the sun set on the final phase of polling in India on May 12, newsrooms were waiting impatiently for 6.30 p.m. — the deadline set by the Election Commission for airing survey results on post-poll predictions.

Elaborate studio sets packed with guests and news anchors flanked by psephologists armed with data sets were all waiting to declare that Narendra Modi is coming to Delhi.

A shortcut to industrial recovery

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

A worker sprays water over piles of coal at Mundra Port Coal Terminal in the western Indian state of GujaratThe rate of growth in infrastructure industries falling to 2.6 percent in FY2013-14 came as a shock. That’s because these industries had been consistently growing at relatively high rates in the previous three years, in spite of the drop in production in other industries.

Infrastructure industries include coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertilizer, steel, cement and electricity. Production of natural gas has been shrinking since FY2011-12. Even so, the infrastructure group maintained steady growth between 5 percent and 6 percent. The sharp drop last year was caused by lower growth in the steel and cement industries.

India’s next foreign policy

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

A guest holds the flags of the United States and India and a program in the East Room at the White House in Washington, November 24, 2009.     REUTERS/Jim Young/FilesNext month, India will complete its marathon election. A new government is expected to assume power at the end of May, and, if the polls prove correct, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has named Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate, will lead that government.

In defence of the defensives: Why IT, pharma stocks are not pariahs

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

Expectation that the ongoing general election will throw up a stable government has spurred a return to risk in domestic equities. The consequent rally has meant those favoured defensives of the sluggish times – information technology and pharma stocks – received a shearing.

The CNX IT index shed 7.8 percent and CNX Pharma 10.1 percent in March – even as the benchmark Nifty surged 6.8 percent.

India’s democratic pageant

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

Last week, India’s independent Election Commission announced the dates for the next general election. The world’s largest single exercise of the democratic franchise will take place over a staggering 37 days in nine “phases,” some a week apart, from April 7 to May 12. Some 814 million eligible voters will elect, for the 16th time, a new parliament and government, casting their ballots at more than 930,000 polling stations — after choosing from an estimated 15,000 candidates belonging to more than 500 political parties.

India Markets Weekahead: Markets back on track for pre-election rally

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

The week started on a sombre note but with institutional activity picking up, the Nifty closed with gains of 1.97 percent at 6276 despite a mid-week trading holiday. Political activity also gained momentum with 11 parties coming together to form a Third Front to oppose both national parties.

 

The Election Commission may announce election dates in the coming week — the code of conduct coming in will halt any policy decisions.

Is gold a good investment once again?

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

The increase in gold prices in the last two months has rekindled interest in the yellow metal as a vehicle for investment. It was after the 2008 global financial crisis that gold became the most preferred asset, with prices doubling in four years.

Why was gold preferred? It was not so much as a hedge against inflation but as an insurance against uncertainty. When the economy is faltering and the future looks bleak, gold becomes a preferred asset.

India’s disrupted democracy

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

India’s 15th Lok Sabha (the lower house of Parliament) passed into history ignominiously this month, following the least productive five years of any Indian parliament in six decades of functioning democracy. With entire sessions lost to opposition disruptions, and with frequent adjournments depriving legislators of time for deliberation, the MPs elected in May 2009 passed fewer bills and spent fewer hours in debate than any of their predecessors.

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