India Insight

The biggest losers in India’s economic slowdown

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

The reaction to news that India’s economy grew at its slowest rate in over a decade was predictable. There was frustration over squandered potential, pleas for a rate cut, unshaken optimism and even an opportunity to indulge in clever wordplay. Yet as everyone from economists to businessmen had their say, the demographic affected most by this slowdown was silent – India’s poor.

One of the big successes of India’s economic growth has been its positive impact on poverty reduction. The percentage of the country’s population living below the poverty line declined from 37.2 percent in 2005 to 29.8 percent in 2010 (the last year when exact numbers were available). That translates to 52 million Indians who have been lifted above the poverty line. Encouraging as those gains are, the country still counts over 320 million poor among its citizens.

Higher economic growth has also correlated with a larger rate of poverty reduction. Between 2005 and 2010, the country’s GDP grew at an average of 8.5 percent and the poverty rate (the proportion of the population below the poverty line) registered an average annual decline of 1.48 percent. In the preceding decade, when GDP growth averaged 6.5 percent, the poverty rate declined at 0.74 percent annually.

If these seem like really small percentages to quibble over, consider this: over the next seven years, India has the opportunity to lift anywhere from 66 million to 160 million people out of poverty (see chart). The difference between the two numbers is that the first assumes a 1 percent annual decline in the poverty rate, while the second assumes a 2 percent decline.

L&T Infra Finance CEO upbeat on India’s economic recovery by 2015

India’s economy recorded its slowest growth in a decade in the fiscal year ending in March but the CEO of L&T Infrastructure Finance, that provides loans to companies such as Jaypee Group to develop roads and other infrastructure, is hopeful of an economic turnaround in less than two years that will boost business prospects.

The company, part of India’s largest engineering and construction conglomerate Larsen & Toubro, will likely end up dealing with a slowdown in business growth in the current financial year, but might bounce right back next year if the winner of India’s federal elections due in 2014 starts spending on infrastructure projects.

Reuters spoke to Chief Executive Officer Suneet Maheshwari about his outlook for the industry and the Indian economy. Here are excerpts from the interview:

In a mixed year for lenders, IndusInd Bank shines

Rate cuts by the Reserve Bank of India, new bank licence norms, bad loan worries and money laundering accusations – Indian banks are firmly in the public eye in 2013.

Going by stock returns, lenders have had a mixed year so far. The BSE banking sub-index has gained less than 1 percent, as compared to the benchmark Sensex’s return of nearly 3 percent. Big banks such as the State Bank of India have lost 13 percent while HDFC Bank has gained around 4 percent. Some smaller players have struggled, with IDBI and Bank of Baroda falling more than 20 percent.

Small private lender IndusInd Bank, which focuses on retail lending, has been the star performer with gains of around 25 percent, making it the best performing stock in the 14-share banking index in 2013, data showed.

Smokers ignore India’s public smoking ban

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

It’s been nearly five years since India banned smoking in public places, but you wouldn’t know it from talking to Sugandha. The jeans-clad woman in her twenties is standing at a subway entrance in New Delhi as a man smokes a cigarette a few steps away, indifferent to how the fumes annoy passersby.

“We can’t say anything to anyone,” she said. “They won’t take it positively.”

India GDP: What the economists are predicting

Investors and policymakers will be closely watching India’s fourth-quarter and full fiscal year 2012/13 gross domestic product (GDP) growth figures on Friday.

The economy grew 4.5 percent in the December quarter, but a Reuters poll has shown that Asia’s third-largest economy will likely perform a little better and expand by 4.8 percent in the quarter that ended in March.

For the financial year 2013, the government had estimated the economy will grow 5 percent, the lowest in a decade. However, if the poll consensus proves right, full-year growth will be worse than the government’s estimate.

Reliance Industries posts biggest single-day gain since Sept 2012

Reliance Industries, India’s third-biggest company by market capitalization, surged more than 5 percent on Monday, after the conglomerate and its partners said on Friday they had made a significant gas discovery in the KG-D6 block.

Niko, the Canadian oil and natural gas producer which partners with Reliance and BP, said the discovery is expected to add to gas resources in the block without revealing potential reserves.

The blue-chip stock ended with gains of 5.3 percent at 828.30 rupees, posting its biggest single-day percentage gain since Sept 14, 2012. The stock, however, is still down around 13 percent from its 2013 high hit on Jan 21.

Tracking Sensex: Top five losers, gainers this week

By Sankalp Phartiyal and Aditya Kalra

It was a tough week for Indian shares as the BSE Sensex fell nearly 3 percent and the Nifty lost 3.3 percent as U.S. Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke’s suggestion that stimulus measures may be scaled back at one of their next few meetings dented sentiment.

Weak factory output data from China also spooked global markets, with the Nikkei plummeting more than 7 percent on Thursday.

Here are the top five Sensex gainers and losers for the week ending May 24:

LOSERS

State Bank of India (SBI): India’s largest lender was the worst Sensex performer this week with losses of 11.3 percent, taking a hit after posting its first quarterly net loss in two years on Thursday.

Tracking Sensex: Top five gainers, losers this week

The BSE Sensex ended above the 20,000 mark on Friday after gaining 2.6 percent in the last five trading sessions. The index has now risen for four straight weeks. Here are the top five Sensex gainers and losers of the week:

GAINERS

Tata Motors: The automaker’s stock surged 8.15 percent in the week ending May 10, making it the best Sensex performer. Though the stock is still flat in 2013, it has gained nearly 15 percent since April. However, Ambareesh Baliga of Edelweiss Financial Services advises caution: “Tata Motors’ overdependence on Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) to negate the Indian underperformance makes it a risky investment at this juncture especially in view of lower margins at JLR”

Hindalco: Shares of India’s largest aluminium producer surged 8 percent this week. The stock extended gains throughout the week after rising 3.5 percent on Monday, on expectations of better realizations after copper prices rose more than 6 percent last Friday.

from Photographers' Blog:

India’s missing daughters

New Delhi, India

By Mansi Thapliyal

Atika, 10, woke up early one morning in August 2008 and was sent by her mother to buy a few items from a nearby shop. She returned and told her mother she would prepare tea for her father before quickly going to use a communal toilet close to her house. She never returned.

Ambika was a feisty 15-year-old high school student who took wrestling classes. Her mother returned home from work late in the night on October 10, 2010. She woke up the next morning and found her daughter missing.

Atika and Ambika are among the thousands of children who go missing from India's streets, schools and homes every year.

from Photographers' Blog:

Bollywood dreams

Mumbai, India

By Danish Siddiqui

The Hindi film industry or Bollywood can make a star, a household name out of anyone overnight. It can bring instant money, fame and the fan-following of millions from across continents.

Bollywood is an addiction for many that attracts thousands of aspirants to the breeding grounds, the city of Mumbai, everyday. I was keen to look at this other side of the glamour world. The side that entails the struggle to enter the world of aspiring dreamers and their struggles to become a star.

There is no time limit to becoming a nationwide sensation, a star in Bollywood. As one of the aspirants told me it's a gamble you take, forgetting all your worries about the results.

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