Today's top business news: Shares tank as Reliance falls after Amazon tries to block Future deal, IMF lifts 2021 global growth forecast, fuel prices at all-time high, and more

People walk past the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building in Mumbai, India.   | Photo Credit: AP

The Nifty and the Sensex opened the day on a negative note, falling further weighed by tanking Reliance shares.

Join us as we follow the top business news through the day.

4:30 PM

US IPO mania

 

4:00 PM

Sensex tanks 938 pts; Nifty crashes below 14,000-level

A bad day for stocks.

PTI reports: "The BSE benchmark Sensex crashed 938 points to slip below the 47,500 mark and the NSE Nifty plunged below the psychological 14,000 level due to rampant selling across counters.

Marking its fourth straight session of loss, the Sensex tumbled 937.66 points or 1.94 per cent to settle at 47,409.93 – taking the aggregate four-session loss to 2,382.19 points or 4.78 per cent.

Intraday, the BSE gauge swung 1,117.65 points.

Likewise, the NSE Nifty plunged 271.40 points or 1.91 per cent to close the session at 13,967.50. Over the last four sessions, the 50-share index has lost 677.20 points or 4.62 per cent.

On the Sensex chart, Axis Bank, Titan, IndusInd Bank, HDFC Bank, Dr Reddy’s, HDFC and Asian Paint were major losers.

Of the Sensex constituents, 24 shares closed in the red and 6 in the green.

Analysts said investors of late have preferred taking profits off the table ahead of the Union Budget and futures and options (F&O) expiry.

Foreign investors sold equities worth Rs 765.30 crore on a net basis in the Indian capital market on Monday, exchange data showed.

Indian equity markets were closed on Tuesday for the Republic Day.

Elsewhere in Asia on Wednesday, stocks ended mixed as investors turned cautious after Wall Street slipped from record levels.

Meanwhile, Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, was trading higher by 0.41 per cent at 55.87 per barrel.

On the forex market front, the rupee ended 2 paise higher at 72.92 against the US dollar."

3:30 PM

IMF favours extension of pandemic support measures, thrust on infra investment in Budget

Ahead of India’s annual Budget presentation next week, International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Chief Economist Gita Gopinath has favoured the extension of the pandemic support measures, thrust on investment in infrastructure and expanding health sector programmes such as Ayushman Bharat and a very credible divestment path for commercially viable companies.

The Indian government has provided a lot of schemes for small and medium enterprises, most of which is in the form of liquidity support, Gita told PTI on Tuesday.

“And you want to revisit it and see how effectively that is working and see whether additional support may need to be provided,” Gita said while responding to a question on her recommendations to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, ahead of her presentation of the annual Union Budget on February 1.

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3:00 PM

Branded petrol crosses Rs 100-mark in Rajasthan; Fuel prices at all-time high

Stocks aren't the only thing witnessing a bull run.

PTI reports: "Branded or premium petrol price crossed Rs 100-mark in Sriganganagar town of Rajasthan as petrol and diesel prices were hiked on Wednesday for the second consecutive day.

Petrol and diesel prices were raised by 25 paise per litre each across the country on Wednesday, according to a price notification from oil marketing companies.

This took petrol price in Delhi to Rs 86.30 per litre and to Rs 92.86 in Mumbai.

Diesel rate climbed to Rs 76.23 a litre in the national capital and to Rs 83.03 per litre in Mumbai, the price data showed.

Fuel prices, which vary from state to state depending on local sales tax or VAT, are now at record high levels in the country.

In Sriganganagar, regular petrol costs Rs 98.40 per litre and premium or branded petrol comes for Rs 101.15 a litre.

Branded petrol in Delhi comes for Rs 89.10 a litre and for Rs 95.61 in Mumbai.

The main difference between regular and premium fuel grades is the octane number. Regular fuel has a lower octane number -- 87, while Premium fuel generally gets a 91 octane rating or higher.

Octane number is a measure of the ignition quality of fuel - higher the number, the less susceptible is the fuel to 'knocking' when burnt in a standard engine.

Petrol and diesel prices were on Tuesday raised by 35 paise per litre each.

Top oil explorer Saudi Arabia pledging additional voluntary output cuts and demand returning from the rollout of coronavirus vaccines has led to a surge in international oil prices.

State-owned fuel retailers -- Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) -- had on January 6, resumed daily price revision after nearly a month-long hiatus.

Since then, rates have gone up by Rs 2.59 a litre on petrol and Rs 2.61 in case of diesel.

Prior to the current high crude prices triggered the price hikes this month, fuel prices had last touched record high on October 4, 2018. At that time the government had cut excise duty on petrol and diesel by Rs 1.50 per litre in a bid to ease inflationary pressure and boost consumer confidence. Alongside, state-owned fuel retailers cut prices by another Re 1 a litre, which they recouped later.

This time, there are no indications of a duty cut so far.

Petrol and diesel prices are revised on a daily basis in line with benchmark international price and foreign exchange rates."

2:00 PM

Sentiment in real estate turns optimistic in Oct-Dec; outlook for next 6 months positive: Report

Greenshoots in the real estate sector.

PTI reports: "The sentiment in the real estate industry turned optimistic during October-December 2020 and the outlook for the next six months is positive on the back of revival in demand for both residential and office properties, according to a survey by Knight Frank India-FICCI-Naredco.

The 27th edition of 'Real Estate Sentiment Index Q4 2020 survey' of developers, banks, financial institutions and private equity players operating in the sector was released on Monday in a video-conference.

As per the report, the 'Current Sentiments Score', for the first time in 2020, entered the optimistic zone at 54 points in Q4 (October-December) 2020, a significant jump of 14 points over the previous quarter.

The 'Future Sentiment Score' witnessed a sharp jump to 65 points in Q4 2020 from 52 points in Q3 2020. A score of above 50 indicates 'Optimism' in sentiments, a score of 50 means the sentiment is 'Same' or 'Neutral', while a score below 50 indicates 'Pessimism'.

With respect to stakeholders, both developers and non-developers (which include banks, NBFCs and PE funds) recorded an improvement in Future Sentiment Score.

"Both the Current and Future Sentiment scores in Q4 2020 have seen great surge in the latest survey backed by revival in both residential and office market real estate that have been highly encouraging," said Shishir Baijal, Chairman and Managing Director, Knight Frank India.

The sector saw a lift in the market's mood and increased stakeholder expectations of a stronger recovery in the next six months, he said.

"As we begin our journey into 2021 with a positive outlook, it is important to closely watch the performance of the key economic indicators in the coming months to check the sustainability of the growth seen in the last two quarters of 2020," Baijal said.

As per the survey, 77 per cent of the respondents were of the opinion that residential sales would increase over the next six months, up from 66 per cent in Q3 2020.

With regards to the office market, 60 per cent of the Q4 2020 survey respondents, up from 47 per cent in Q3 2020, believed that office leasing activity would increase over the next six months.

Naredco President Niranjan Hiranandani said: "As reflected in the survey, it was resurgence that was powering optimism in real estate. The survey mirrors recovery expectations of not just real estate, but the economy." Investments in real estate over the recent past reflect positive sentiments on part of investors, domestic as also global, on the resurgence in the Indian economic growth story, he said.

"This is a clear indicator of the bullish growth story of Indian real estate and reflects on the growth prospects of 270 allied industries as also job creation. Recently, we have seen this investment being in the office spaces segment, which reflects the confidence of investors in the Indian GDP’s positive growth potential," Hiranandani said.

Rajani Sinha, Chief Economist and National Director Research, Knight Frank, said, the economic indicators in India have started improving in the last few months with the economy moving towards normalcy.

The critical aspect would be at what level the growth momentum is sustained after taking care of the pent-up demand, she added.

"The real estate sector has seen a boost in sentiments, aided by supportive measures from the government, the RBI and the resultant pick-up in end-user demand. Any further demand boosting measures announced by the government in the upcoming Union Budget, will give a strong fillip to real estate sector," Sinha said.

Going forward, the trajectory of the real estate sector would be dependent on the economic recovery and efficacy of India's COVID vaccination drive, she said."

1:30 PM

Facebook to provide data on targeted political ads to researchers

Facebook Inc said on Monday it would provide academic researchers information on how political ads were targeted in the lead-up to the presidential election in the United States last year.

The social media giant said the data would include targeting criteria, such as location and interests, selected by advertisers running social issue, electoral or political ads.

Academics and researchers can apply for access to this information through the Facebook Open Research & Transparency (FORT) platform on Feb. 1, Facebook said in a blog post, adding that the data package would cover more than a million ads that ran between Aug. 3 and Nov. 3.

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1:00 PM

Twitter grants academics full access to public data, but not for suspended accounts

Twitter Inc on Tuesday opened free access to its new application programming interface (API) software for academic researchers, enabling them to study public conversations on its platform, but is not providing data from suspended accounts as part of the product.

Twitter said, with the new product, academic researchers will be able to tap into all the tools released to date on the new API platform, which will enable them to listen to and analyze public conversations.

The data will not, however, include tweets from accounts suspended for violations of Twitter rules, which means academics will be unable to use the API to study tweets by former U.S. President Donald Trump, company executives told reporters on Monday.

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12:30 PM

Tiktok to shut down India business

Months after the ban imposd by the Centre, Tiktok decides to shut down operations in India.

PTI reports: "Chinese social media firm Bytedance, which owns Tiktok and Helo apps, has announced the closure of its India business following continued restrictions on its services in the country.

Tiktok's global interim head Vanessa Pappas and vice president for global business solutions Blake Chandlee in a joint email to employees have communicated the decision of the company that it is reducing team size and the decision will impact all employees in India.

The executives expressed uncertainty on the company's comeback to India but expressed hope to do so in times to come.

"While we don't know when we will make a comeback in India, we are confident in our resilience, and desire to do so in times to come," the email said.

According to a source at Bytedance, the company held a town hall on Wednesday where it communicated about the closure of India business.

When contacted Tiktok spokesperson said the company has worked steadfastly to comply with the government of India order issued on June 29, 2020 and continually strives to make its apps comply with local laws and regulations.

"It is therefore disappointing that in the ensuing seven months, despite our efforts we have not been given a clear direction on how and when our apps could be reinstated. It is deeply regretful that after supporting our over 2,000 employees in India for more than half a year, we have no choice but to scale back the size of our workforce.

"We look forward to receiving the opportunity to relaunch TikTok and support the hundreds of millions of users, artists, story-tellers, educators and performers in India," the spokesperson said.

The government had blocked Tiktok and Helo along with 59 apps in June and has further communicated to the companies that the order to block them will be continued.

"We've cut expenses, while still paying benefits. However, we simply cannot responsibly stay fully staffed while our apps remain un-operational. We are fully aware of the impact that this decision has for all of our employees in India, and we empathize with our team," the e-mail said.

Bytedance executives said that the decision to ban its app came despite the company complying with local laws and regulations.

"We have done our best since then to address their (Indian government's) concerns. We regret that this was the result of a lack of clear direction from the government of India on how and when our apps could be reinstated.

"Despite our efforts to communicate with them, especially since it impacts the careers and livelihoods of so many Indians, today we are forced to reduce the size of our team," the email said.

The executives said that they will share severance and benefits details."

12:00 PM

Reliance Industries shares decline over 2%; Future Retail tanks 5%

Aamazon isplaying spoilsport for RIL and Future investors.

PTI reports: "Shares of Reliance Industries on Wednesday declined over 2 per cent amid concerns over the Future Group deal.

The heavyweight stock opened the day on a weak note and further dipped 2.43 per cent to Rs 1,892.55 on the BSE.

At the NSE, it declined 2.56 per cent to Rs 1,891.15.

Shares of Future Retail also tanked 4.98 per cent to Rs 77.25 on the BSE.

US online retailer Amazon has filed a petition in the Delhi High Court seeking detention of Future Group founders, including CEO Kishore Biyani, and seizure of their assets as it sought to block Future Group from selling retail assets to Reliance Industries.

In the petition, Amazon sought enforcement of the Singapore arbitrator's ruling in October against its partner Future's Rs 24,713 crore deal with Reliance.

Amazon, which wants the deal to sell retail assets to Reliance to be stopped, also asked the court for a direction for "detention of the directors (of Future Group entities) in civil prison".

Future Retail, in a regulatory filing on Monday said it would defend the matter through its legal counsels."

11:30 AM

Doubts over the Chinese economic rebound

 

11:00 AM

Cairn threatens Indian asset seizures abroad in tax case

A month after it won an international tribunal award of $1.2 billion in damages against India in the retrospective taxation case, U.K.-based Cairn Energy Plc has threatened that it may be forced to begin attaching Indian assets including bank accounts in different world capitals, unless the government resolves the issue.

In a letter to the Indian High Commission in London that was also sent to the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of External Affairs and the Finance Ministry this week, which The Hindu has seen, Cairn Energy’s top leadership has said that the “necessary preparations have been put in place” in order for the tribunal verdict to be “enforced against Indian assets in numerous jurisdictions around the world” if India fails to discuss paying the amount awarded.

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10:40 AM

Rupee rises 8 paise to 72.86 against US dollar in early trade

The rupee diverges from stocks.

PTI reports: "The rupee appreciated 8 paise to 72.86 against the US dollar in opening trade on Wednesday, ahead of the outcome of the US central bank's meeting.

At the interbank forex market, the domestic unit opened at 72.91 against the US dollar and inched higher to 72.86 against the greenback, registering a rise of 8 paise over its previous close.

On Monday, the rupee had settled at 72.94 against the American currency.

Traders said the local unit was trading in a narrow range against the US dollar on Wednesday morning ahead of the Fed meeting conclusion. Markets are also keenly watching progress on the US stimulus front.

Meanwhile, the dollar index, which gauges the greenback's strength against a basket of six currencies, rose 0.08 per cent to 90.23.

"Asian currencies were mixed against the greenback ahead of the Fed meeting tonight," Reliance Securities said in a research note.

The euro and the sterling have started marginally weaker against the US dollar this Wednesday morning in Asian trade.

On the domestic equity market front, the 30-share BSE benchmark Sensex was trading 294.83 points lower at 48,052.76, and the broader NSE Nifty fell 86.25 points to 14,152.65.

Foreign institutional investors were net sellers in the capital market as they offloaded shares worth Rs 765.30 crore on a net basis on Monday, according to exchange data.

Forex and equity markets were closed on Tuesday on account of Republic Day.

Brent crude futures, the global oil benchmark, rose 0.43 per cent to USD 56.15 per barrel."

10:20 AM

GDP to contract 8% in FY21, FICCI survey shows

India’s GDP is expected to contract by 8% in 2020-21, according to the latest round of FICCI’s Economic Outlook Survey.

The annual median growth forecast by the industry body is based on responses from leading economists representing industry, banking and financial services sectors. The survey was conducted in January.

The median growth forecast for agriculture and allied activities has been pegged at 3.5% for 2020-21.

“Agriculture sector has exhibited significant resilience in the face of the pandemic. Higher rabi acreage, good monsoons, higher reservoir levels and strong growth in tractor sales indicate continued buoyancy in the sector,” FICCI stated on the survey findings. However, industry and services sector, which were most severely hit due to the pandemic induced economic fallout, are expected to contract by 10% and 9.2% respectively during 2020-21. The industrial recovery is gaining traction, but the growth is still not broad based. The consumption activity did spur during the festive season as a result of pent-up demand built during the lockdown but sustaining it is important going ahead, the survey said.

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10:00 AM

Indian shares slip as Reliance falls after Amazon tries to block Future deal

The fall continues.

Reuters reports: "Indian shares opened lower on Wednesday, weighed down by heavyweight Reliance Industries after U.S. e-commerce giant Amazon.com requested a court to block Future Group's $3.4 billion retail asset sale to the conglomerate.

The blue-chip NSE Nifty 50 index fell 0.57% to 14,157.30, while the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex slipped 0.56% to 48,059.52 by 0353 GMT.

Shares of Reliance Industries slipped 1.96% and was the top drag on the Nifty.

Future Retail opened 4.9% lower after Amazon.com asked the Delhi High Court to enforce a Singapore arbitrator's decision and also called for Future Group's chief executive officer to be detained.

Investors are also eyeing a slew of corporate results due later in the day, including private sector lender Axis Bank and consumer giant Hindustan Unilever."

9:30 AM

IMF lifts 2021 global growth forecast

The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday raised its forecast for global economic growth in 2021 and said the coronavirus-triggered downturn in 2020 would be almost a full percentage point less severe than expected.

It said multiple vaccine approvals and the unveiling of vaccinations in some countries in December had boosted hopes of an eventual end to the pandemic.

But it warned that the world economy continued to face ‘exceptional uncertainty’ and global activity would remain well below pre-COVID projections made one year ago. Close to 90 million people are likely to fall below the extreme poverty threshold during 2020-2021, with the pandemic wiping out progress made in reducing poverty over the past two decades.

The IMF forecast a 2020 global contraction of 3.5%, an improvement of 0.9 percentage points from the 4.4% slump predicted in October, reflecting stronger-than-expected momentum in the second half. It predicted global growth of 5.5% in 2021, an increase of 0.3 percentage points from earlier, citing expectations of a vaccine-powered uptick later in the year and added policy support in the U.S., Japan and other large economies.

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 12:00:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/business/businesslive-27-january-2021/article33672230.ece

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