India Insight

Bharti Airtel, NTPC top Sensex losers this week

By Sankalp Phartiyal and Ankush Arora

The BSE Sensex recovered on Thursday and Friday after the index lost around 700 points in the first three trading sessions of the week. However, the index still ended down 0.4 percent as a weak rupee, concerns over foreign flows and uncertainty over the end of the U.S. Fed’s stimulus plan kept investors on the edge.

As a worsening current account deficit and inflation loomed large, the rupee hit fresh record lows below 65 per dollar in the week ending Aug. 23. However, gold prices and bonds rallied.

Fitch Ratings has warned Asia’s third-largest economy of a downgrade if the government fails to soothe tensions in the financial market. JP Morgan and HSBC downgraded Indian shares to ‘neutral’.

Here are the top losers and gainers of the week:

LOSERS

BHARTI AIRTEL: India’s top telecom service provider was the worst Sensex performer with a weekly loss of 8 percent, taking its losses for the month to over 10 percent.

Nomura, which maintains a neutral rating on the stock with a target price of 315 rupees, said in a research note on Aug. 21 that financial leverage and inadequate infrastructure are challenges for the company.

Reactions on Twitter to the Mumbai gang rape

A photographer in her early 20s was gang-raped by five men in India’s financial capital Mumbai on Thursday, evoking comparisons with a similar incident in Delhi in December that led to nationwide protests.

Here is a compilation of politicians and other celebrities reacting on Twitter:

Amitabh Bachchan, actor: Appalled and most disgusted with the recent rape of a young photo journalist in the heart of city .. day time .. shocked !!

Nirmala Sitharaman, BJP politician: Despicable! We are shamed! How long & God forbid, how many more before the criminals are punished? Wake up, India!

Not so safe in Mumbai any more

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

When the Delhi gang rape made headlines last December, most Mumbai residents thought such a thing could never happen in their city.

A girl raped during daylight hours in a public place in a posh area? Nah! Not possible in Mumbai. This is a city where women can walk the streets alone at night and not feel threatened.

It all changed on Thursday. A photojournalist in her early 20s was gang-raped by five men at around 6 p.m., while on assignment with a male colleague. Her friend was tied up while the men took turns raping her, media reports quoting the police said.

Photographer gang-raped in Mumbai

A 22-year-old photographer was gang-raped by five men in India’s financial capital Mumbai on Thursday, evoking comparisons with a similar incident in Delhi in December that led to nationwide protests.

The incident took place near the posh Lower Parel area when the woman, a photojournalist with a magazine, was out on assignment. She was accompanied by a male colleague, media reports said.

A case has been registered at Mumbai’s N.M. Joshi Marg police station.

“An FIR has been registered … nobody has been arrested so far,” a head constable at the police station told India Insight. He gave no details.

from India Masala:

Bachchan upset over fake video that shows him praising Modi

Amitabh Bachchan has threatened legal action over a YouTube video that apparently shows the Bollywood actor championing Narendra Modi as India's next prime minister.

Bachchan described the online video as "fake" on Wednesday and expressed outrage on his Twitter and Facebook accounts.

The 70-year-old actor said the video featured footage from a 2007 'Lead India' newspaper campaign but added visuals to suggest he was promoting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader.

India’s TV import duty taxes travellers… and grey markets

India on Monday imposed a 36 percent duty on flat-screen televisions that travellers bring back from other countries, seen as another step to support a falling rupee. The move, however, will do little to help the economy but will cheer television manufacturers in India and hit grey markets, experts said.

India has taken various measures in recent months to deter the import of commodities such as gold as Asia’s third-largest economy tries to tamp down its current account deficit and a weak rupee that touched record lows below 65 per dollar this week.

The duty will not have significant effect on the rupee or on the current account deficit, which is estimated at 3.7 percent of the gross domestic product this year. With only seven months’ worth of foreign exchange reserves, India is taking a number of measures to narrow the gap between its imports and exports, though trying to discourage television purchases in foreign currency might not do much more than set an example.

Anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar shot dead

Narendra Dabholkar, who campaigned against superstition in India for more than two decades, was shot dead in Pune on Tuesday, police said.

Dabholkar, 67, was a physician-turned-activist who openly criticised and questioned supernatural phenomena attributed to practitioners of black magic in India.

He was instrumental in drafting a new law in Maharashtra state that sought to target conmen who exploited superstitious beliefs, especially among the illiterate. The controversial bill is yet to be passed by the state assembly due to opposition from right-wing groups and political parties who fear the new law might curb religious freedom.

Markets this week: BHEL is top Sensex loser

By Ankush Arora and Sankalp Phartiyal

The BSE Sensex had been headed for a week of gains until upbeat U.S. jobs data triggered fears of a soon-to-start tapering of the Fed’s monetary stimulus, pulling the benchmark down by a percent for the week ending Aug. 16. The broader Nifty slumped 4 percent on Friday, marking its biggest daily drop in almost two years.

The rupee also fell to a new record low of 62.03 versus the dollar on Friday despite the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the government’s continued efforts to prop up the currency.
New measures by the RBI to restrict how much Indian citizens and companies can invest abroad raised fears of outright capital controls that could spook foreign investors, hurting the rupee further.

The outlook remains bleak as Indian shares marked their fourth consecutive weekly fall, totalling a decline of 7.7 percent.

Running rings around onion prices

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

The size and swiftness of the current price spike in onions has surprised everyone, even those who have been dealing with India’s most politically sensitive commodity for decades. How come retail prices have doubled in Mumbai in a week? Why did prices at Lasalgaon, India’s largest wholesale onion market, rocket 38 percent on Monday?

Sure, stocks are low after a drought last year in Maharashtra state, the top onion producer in the country. And there have been reports that this year’s crop is damaged in some pockets because of heavy rains – but that’s just a few thousand hectares.

It’s getting so bad that the government has had to cease its mantra of buy less, export more for other costly commodities and import onions for Indians to cook their classic dishes.

Some investors in India look to the stars for stock advice

The 2008 financial crisis gutted Girish Kumar’s portfolio value by 90 percent. So much for technical and fundamental analysis. The 42-year-old textiles businessman from Jaipur turned to astrology, and now he says the stars guide him to a profit every month.

Kumar is part of a group of Indians who think that analysing the positions of the planets, stars and other celestial bodies can predict the direction of the stock market and suggest which companies and sectors deserve their money.

“There is something in this universe that makes it run. I believe in that,” said Kumar, who pays an astrologer 100,000 rupees a year, about $1,700, for stock market advice.

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