Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

Budget 2014/15 reveals priorities, sets the stage

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

The new Narendra Modi government rides on a long wishlist of policies and reforms, with limited resources. Budget 2014/15, as expected, reveals the government’s priorities in the near and medium term.

Arun Jaitley poses as he leaves his office to present the union budget for the 2014/15 fiscal year in New DelhiThe inflation moderation imperative overshadows near-term headline growth desires, manifested in aggressive (albeit challenging) fiscal deficit targets. The projected fiscal deficit of 4.1 percent (3.6 percent of GDP in FY16) versus the 4.6 percent recorded in FY14, is in line with expectations. The reduction in the budget deficit is driven by hoped-for revenue growth rather than depressed spending growth.

The spending mix is forecast to improve towards more plan and capital spending, which should bode well for the growth outlook. Curtailed non-plan spending growth and subsidies are also a positive.

This budget sets the stage for a future pick-up in growth, rather than drive acceleration in real GDP this year. It does outline both policy initiatives as well as specific schemes (albeit with yet limited fund allocation) to support medium-term growth recovery.

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.

Steps the next government should take

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

India’s economy is tottering, inflation is too high and growth too low. The Congress-led UPA government allowed the economy to drift during its second term. Why? Because it did not focus on real issues, failed to govern effectively and did not carry out any significant reforms.

New legislation became almost impossible, with coalition partners such as the TMC and DMK threatening to pull out (and they eventually did). On top of that, successive scams made it impossible for the government to function normally.

India Markets Weekahead: ‎Ride the election rally but skim the profits

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

The market began the week on a high note after an extended weekend but could not sustain the rally due to profit booking. The Nifty was at a high of 6570 on Tuesday but the rest of the trading days remained lackluster and it ended the week with a marginal loss – at 6495 after the extended trading session on Saturday.

Although the week was marked with heightened political activity as candidates for the general election were announced, the U.S Federal Reserve had a sobering effect on the markets. The Fed decision to continue with further tapering of $10 billion and focus on interest rates, which should start rising sooner than expected, saw corrections in most markets as the dollar strengthened.

How much inflation is good for growth

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

The RBI has left it to the government to decide the inflation target since it considers it politically sensitive. The central bank will accordingly modulate its monetary policy to ensure that the government’s target is not exceeded.

Targeting inflation alone cannot be the sole objective of monetary policy, though it is an important criterion for regulating the repo rate. Even developed countries have concerns about inflation – when it is too low or too high.

India Markets Weekahead: Markets move into pre-election rally

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

A spectacular rally in the last few days has put the market in a pre-election mode, buoyant with hopes of a stable and reform-oriented government. Led by institutional buying and the resultant short squeeze, the markets rallied more than 3 percent in the last two trading sessions – closing the week at 6526, a record high for Nifty. The markets seemed to have moved into a new territory with metals, realty, banking, capital goods, infrastructure and energy sectors participating in the rally.

 Generally, the data points for a pre-election rally are the developments on political activities and opinion polls. The economic data takes a backseat in this “rally of hope” and markets take a keen interest in electoral analysis.

India Markets Weekahead: Time to size up portfolio

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

After a scare earlier in the week, the markets showed resilience at lower levels and bounced back, showing the confidence of participants. Though Nifty closed 26 points lower for the week at 6063, sentiment was much better than the previous week.

Why the RBI raised interest rates

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

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) raised interest rates at its review on Jan 28. The justification usually given for doing so is inflation.

But at its previous review, when inflation had soared, the RBI was passive and left rates unchanged. Now, with wholesale price inflation (WPI) slowing to 6.16 percent, the RBI was quick to raise the repo rate by 25 bps back to its highest level since the 2008 crisis. Why?

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.

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.

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