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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sensex ends 400 points higher; upmove to continue

29 Apr 2009, ET Bureau

MUMBAI: The Indian stock markets surged to close on a high note Wednesday as traders covered short positions on the day of April F&O series expiry. Positive Asian and European markets provided further boost. Heavy buying was seen in IT and banking space while healthcare space ended with modest gains.

Markets began the day with a gap-up opening, brushing aside fears of swine flu overseas and recovered more than previous day’s loss.

“Markets reacted to yesterday’s fall and with positive global markets, this kind of upmove was expected. Traders are bullish on the market as May series is at a premium and on rollover of long positions despite a long week-end,” said Rajesh Baheti, managing director, Crossseas Capital Services.

The Sensex closed at 11,403.25, higher by 401.50 points or 3.65 per cent from Tuesday’s close. The 30-share index moved between 11,430.25 and 11,091.56 during the day.

The Nifty ended at 3473.95, higher by 111.6 points or 3.32 per cent from the previous close. The NSE benchmark recorded a high of 3486.40 recovering from an early low of 3366.70.

“The way things turned out today, it looks positive for the next week. Nifty may even touch 3600 provided global markets lend support. But investors should reduce positions after next week as market may turn volatile in run-up to election results,” Baheti added.

The BSE Midcap Index ended 1.83 per cent higher and BSE Smallcap Index climbed 1.35 per cent. Amongst the sectoral indices, BSE IT Index was up 4.95 per cent, BSE Bankex gained 4.47 per cent and BSE Oil&gas Index moved 3.48 per cent higher. BSE Healthcare Index ended modestly 1 per cent higher.

The top Nifty gainers included ICICI Bank, Sterlite Industries, Tata Power, Reliance Capital, Suzlon and Infosys Technologies. The only losers among the Nifty 50 stocks were Reliance Power, Idea Cellular, Grasim Industries, Ambuja Cements and Nalco.

Market breadth on BSE was positive with 1,433 advances against 1,025 declines.

Indian markets will be shut for the rest of the week on account of polling for general elections Thursday and Labour Day Friday.

Market ends strong; Nifty eyes 3500

29 Apr 2009, ET Bureau

MUMBAI: The Indian stock indices ended Wednesday’s trade on a strong note. Market sentiment got a boost from gains in Europe. Traders also sought to settle positions in view of April F&O series expiry and the long weekend.

The Nifty ended the day at provisional 3480.00, higher by 117.65 points or 3.50 per cent from the previous close. The NSE benchmark recorded a high of 3486.40 recovering from an early low of 3366.70.

The Sensex closed the day at provisional 11,414.96, higher by 413.21 points or 3.76 per cent from Tuesday’s close. The 30-share index moved between 11,430.25 and 11,091.56 during the day.

The top Nifty gainers included ICICI Bank, Sterlite Industries, Tata Power, Reliance Capital, Suzlon, Siemens, Hero Honda. The only losers among the Nifty 50 stocks were Reliance Power, Nalco, Idea Cellular and Ambuja Cements.

Nifty gains momentum; Suzlon, Hero Honda up

29 Apr 2009, ET Bureau

MUMBAI: Indian markets gained momentum Wednesday with the positive opening of European markets. Traders were seen settling positions on April series expiry day. IT and banking stocks lead the rally while capital goods and healthcare stocks made modest gains.

At 2 pm, National Stock Exchange’s Nifty was at 3439.50, up 77.15 points or 2.29 per cent. The broader index touched a high of 3443.95 and low of 3366.70.

Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensex was at 11271.58, up 269.83 points or 2.45 per cent. The 30-share index hit an intra-day high of 11282.94 and low of 11091.56.

BSE Midcap Index was up 1.16 per cent and BSE Smallcap Index gained 1.23 per cent.

Amongst sectoral indices, BSE IT Index was up 3.96 per cent, BSE Bankex gained 2.61 per cent, BSE Healthcare Index advanced 1.20 per cent and BSE Capital Goods Index moved 1.13 per cent higher.

Suzlon (7.90%), Hero Honda (6.60%), Reliance Capital (4.93%), HDFC (4.89%) and Infosys Technologies (4.77%) were the top Nifty gainers.

Ambuja Cement (-1.54%), IDEA (-1.11%), Unitech (-0.46%) and Maruti (-0.29%) were the top Nifty losers.

Market breadth was positive on the BSE with 1301 advances and 1003 declines.

European markets opened in the green led by gains in commodities. FTSE 100 was up 0.42 per cent, CAC 40 gained 0.89 per cent and DAX moved 0.73 per cent higher.

Sensex jumps 17.45% in April; best in 10 years

29 Apr 2009,

MUMBAI: The BSE Sensex rallied 3.65 percent on Wednesday and propelled gains to more than 17 percent in April, its best monthly performance in 10 years, as a wave of improved investor confidence swept across the world.

Foreign funds led the buying, pumping in more than $1.4 billion in April 1-27, their biggest inflow since October 2007. The rally was also powered by expectations India's economy would pick up later this year.

The 30-share BSE index jumped 401.50 points to 11,403.25, its highest since Oct. 14 last year. It rose 0.65 percent in the holiday-shortened week, taking the weekly winning streak to eight and matching the run of gains in September to October 2007.

The benchmark rose 17.45 percent in April, making it the best-performing major Asian index this month.

Outsourcer Infosys Technologies, energy giant Reliance Industries and private-sector lender ICICI Bank were among the major gainers as the rally drew fence-sitters into the market.

"There was a lot of money sitting on the sidelines, and once momentum in a market picks up, the people sitting on the sidelines automatically jump into it," Ambareesh Baliga, vice president at Karvy Stock Broking, said.

Much of the early rise was led by short-covering on the last day of monthly derivatives and then the momentum swept the market higher despite a four-day weekend ahead and concerns of a possible flu pandemic in some countries.

The market is closed on Thursday as Mumbai votes in national elections and for a local holiday on Friday.

All but one of the index components rose while in the broader market, advancers led losers 1,436 to 1,031 on above-average volume of 419.6 million shares.

The benchmark index, which has leapt 42 percent since hitting a 2009 low on March 6, could face resistance next week as political uncertainties come back to the fore ahead of election results due on May 16.

"I don't think this momentum can be sustained, because in May the election will start playing on the mind of investors," T.S. Harihar, senior vice president at ICICI Securities, said. "This could lead to a correction before the results are announced."

Added Karvy's Baliga: "No one knows who is going to come to power and all signs point to a very fractured coalition. Then how can one justify such a huge rally even if fundamentals may have slightly improved for the better. It has no logic."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sensex closes below 11k; realty, metals down 5%

28 Apr 2009, ET Bureau

MUMBAI: Indian markets ended with heavy losses on Tuesday in line with sell-off in other global markets. Squaring of positions ahead of

F&O expiry also dented sentiments. Realty and metals space got hammered badly while IT space ended with minimum losses.

Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensex ended at 10996.28, down 375.57 points or 3.3 per cent. It touched a high of 11375.97 and low of 10961.76.

National Stock Exchange’s Nifty closed at 3360.10, down 109.90 points or 3.17 per cent. The broader index touched a low of 3351.50 and high of 3471.95.

BSE Midcap Index was down 3.71 per cent and BSE Smallcap Index fell 3.38 per cent.

Amongst sectoral indices, BSE Realty Index was down 5.59 per cent, BSE Metal Index slipped 5.24 per cent and BSE Bankex declined 4.69 per cent. BSE IT Index ended 0.58 per cent lower.

Jaiprakash Associates (0.08%) and Maruti Suzuki (0.04%) were the lone gainers in the 30-share index.

DLF (-8.35%), Reliance Infrastructure (-7.57%), Sterlite Industries (-7.54%), Tata Steel (-7.5%), Reliance Communications (-7.05%) were the losers

Market breadth was negative on the BSE with 1794 declines and 664 advances.

Nifty hovers nears 3400; Sterlite,Suzlon down

28 Apr 2009,ET Bureau

MUMBAI: Selling pressure intensified in Indian markets on Tuesday as traders were settling positions ahead of April series F&O expiry. Metals, realty and power stocks were extending losses while IT was almost flat-to –positive.

“The undertone of the market is still strong, but ahead of April expiry we could witness volatile and choppy session. Nifty faces solid resistance above the 3,500 mark, as the Nifty has corrected for the second time from the 3,517 level. This intermediate uptrend is intact unless Nifty breaks below 3,300. Nifty sustaining above its 200-day moving average is a big breakout and one should buy at dips and participate in this rally. The immediate intra-day support for Nifty is at 3440 - 3390 – 3365 and resistance area is at 3520 for Nifty future,” said Nirmal Bang report.

At 12:30 pm, National Stock Exchange’s Nifty was at 3402.25, down 67.75 points or 1.95 per cent. The broader index broke psychological mark to touch a low of 3399.80.

Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensex was at 11,173.78, down 198.07 points or 1.74 per cent. The index touched an intra-day low of 11171.62 and high of 11375.97 in trade so far.

“Nifty has a strong resistance at 3505 while short-term support exists at 3100. IT/capital goods are likely to remains stable in overall down market. real estate, infrastructure, banking and metals stocks are to see selling,” said Networth Stock Broking.

BSE Midcap Index was down 1.87 per cent and BSE Smallcap Index declined 1.75 per cent.

Nifty losers included Punjab National Bank (-6.24%), DLF (-4.59%), Reliance Infrastructure (-4.48%), Sterlite Industries (-4.36%) and Tata Steel (-4.35%).

Unitech (2.63%), M&M (1.42%), Infosys Technologies (0.45%), Ranbaxy Laboratories (0.45%) and BPCL (0.28%) were the top Nifty gainers.

All the sectoral indices were in the red. BSE Metal Index was down 3.17 per cent, BSE Realty declined 2.61 per cent and BSE Power Index fell 2.46 per cent.

European markets too opened in the red mirroring global sentiments. FTSE 100 was down 1.4 per cent, DAX and CAC fell 1.8 per cent each.

American & European visitors to be screened for swine flu

28 Apr 2009,

NEW DELHI: Alarmed that the deadly swine flu, which has already taken over 100 lives in Mexico, could reach India, the authorities on Monday decided to screen all travellers coming from the US, UK, Canada, Mexico, France and New Zealand, while advising to avoid ``non-essential travel'' to these flu-affected countries.

The scare of a pandemic that could affect millions across the globe, spurred the Indian authorities to put together a containment plan by deploying doctors at nine airports and ports and making it mandatory for all those arriving from the flu-hit countries to undergo checks for fever and throat infection.

Given that these are fairly common symptoms for all kinds of ailments, expect some confusion at the airports, especially in Delhi and Mumbai which get maximum traffic from these countries. At these two airports, a team of 32 doctors is being put in place and the screening process is supposed to kick in from Thursday.

The other airports indentified for mandatory check-ups are Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kochi, Jaipur and Goa. Health ministry officials said that throat swabs would be taken and blood samples collected of travellers who complain of upper respiratory tract diseases and fever. Airport authorities, however, said they are still in the dark and are yet to gear up for these checks.

Health ministry officials said they were also trying to track down all passengers who have come in from Mexico into the country in the past 10 days to check them out for similar influenza symptoms. A request has been made by the health ministry to the immigration department for details of all such passengers, so that doctors can visit their local addresses.

Doctors clarified that there is no risk of the flu from eating pork and pork products, including ham, salami and sausages. Otherwise, it's advised that pork is cooked at temperatures over 70 degrees - a level at which all viruses die.

The new flu does not have any preventive vaccine for humans, although timely medication can cure it. The medicine advised is Tamiflu and Relenza. Fortunately for India, it already has a stockpile of one million doses of Tamiflu. The government is now planning to double its buffer stock by ordering another million doses of the drug. Health secretary Naresh Dayal told TOI, ``These drugs have a shelf live of five years. So we may increase our buffer stock.''

Four labs - National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) in Delhi. National Institute of Virology (Pune), National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (Kolkata) and Regional Medical Research Centre (Dibrugarh) - have been put on high alert to test human samples for H1N1 infection.

Dr V M Katoch, secretary of India's department of health research, said there were no suspected cases of H1N1 infection in India, either in animals or humans. ``However, our main focus now is to combat human importation of the virus into India. Human to human transmission of this new virus, with altered genes, has been confirmed by WHO,'' Dr Katoch said.

The ministry's joint secretary, Vineet Chaudhry, said, ``We already have airport health officers and quarantine facilities. We are just augmenting personnel in heavy traffic airports to scan every passenger. Delhi and Mumbai airports, where the maximum number of international flights touch down, will have majority of the doctors. Delhi will have 32 doctors, most of whom were trained during the SARS and bird flu outbreaks in India, working between eight shifts.''

Chaudhry said the ministry had finished drafting directives to airlines which will inform passengers about the precautionary measures India was taking at airports against swine flu.

Passengers will be given two forms - one will be a voluntary declaration from the passenger on the history of their exposure to animals and symptoms of influenza illness. The second form will be retained by the passenger which will tell them where to contact in case they develop symptoms in the next 10 days.

Two round-the-clock toll free numbers (1075 and 23921401) have also been put in place for the public to report influenza like illnesses.

Bofors scam: Quattrocchi gets clean chit

28 Apr 2009

NEW DELHI: The Interpol has removed the red-corner notice issued against Ottavio Quattrocchi, an Italian businessman who is being sought in India for criminal charges for acting as a conduit for bribes in the Bofors scandal, Times Now reported.

The 12-year-long Interpol red corner notice against Quattrocchi has been withdrawn by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

This comes just three weeks before the Congress-led UPA government's term ends.

The decision is apparently based on an opinion sent by Attorney General Milon Banerjee to the government in which he describes the notice as "a continuing embarrassment."

Banerjee writes: "The CBI is under an obligation to have the matters set right at the Interpol level as there is no basis on which the RCN can continue...I am of the firm opinion that immediate action should be taken to withdraw the Red Corner Notice".

Quattrochi's counsel had already sought the removal of the notice in October 2008.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

India upset with China over Sri Lanka crisis

26 Apr 2009

NEW DELHI: China's declaration of support for the Sri Lankan government against the LTTE, apart from sticking out like a sore thumb in the eyes of the world, has further fuelled India's mortal distrust of its largest and most powerful neighbour. While India has a much more nuanced position over the issue owing to its domestic compulsions, an unfettered China is supporting Colombo and, in the process, authenticating India's fear about Beijing extending its influence in the Indian Ocean.

According to government sources, Beijing's support to Colombo cannot be viewed in isolation because it follows a series of initiatives aimed at influencing the Sri Lankan government. These include selling huge quantities of arms to Colombo last year and boosting aid almost five times to $1 billion. In fact, China is now the largest donor to Lanka. Its Jian-7 fighter jets, anti-aircraft guns and JY-11 3D air surveillance radars played a key role in the Sri Lankan military successes.

China came to rescue of Colombo after the US stopped direct aid to Sri Lanka because of its dismal human rights record. What's worse, said strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellaney, Beijing has also roped in its ally Pakistan for providing military assistance to Lanka. Pakistan's own economy is in tatters, but it has increased its annual military assistance to Sri Lanka to $100 million at Beijing's behest. It is also well known that its air force trained its Sri Lankan counterpart in precision-guided attacks.

"The Chinese are courting Sri Lanka because of its location in the Indian Ocean -- a crucial international passageway for trade and oil. Chinese engineers are currently building a billion-dollar port in the country's southeast, Hambantota, and this is the latest `pearl' in China's strategy to control vital sea-lanes of communication between the Indian and Pacific Oceans by assembling a `string of pearls' in the form of listening posts, special naval arrangements and access to ports,'' said Chellaney.

The Chinese are building a highway, developing two power plants and putting up a new port in the hometown of President Mahinda Rajapakse. Delhi is also feeling hard done-by by Beijing's support to Colombo over the issue of LTTE because it believes China is driving home an unfair advantage it has over India in the crisis. "Unlike in our case, there is no moral dimension to the crisis for China. We have to think about the humanitarian situation and conditions after the offensive is over. There is no domestic compulsion for China but our involvement is much more intricate,'' said a source.

China, in fact, continues to aggressively pursue its strategic interests by building ports in the Indian Ocean rim, including in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. According to Chellaney, Beijing has sought naval and commercial links with the Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar. "However, none of the port-building projects it has bagged in recent years can match the strategic value of Hambantota,'' said Chellaney.

BJP picks on PM's 100-day promise

26 Apr 2009

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's promise to revive the economy in 100 days on Saturday kicked off a war of words between Congress and BJP, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh waves to party supporters during an election campaign, in Guwahati.
with the latter latching on to the claim as an admission by Congress that it had mismanaged the economy.

Reacting to PM's statement, given in an interview to TOI and published on Saturday, BJP spokesman Prakash Javdekar said, "Congress and the PM must first explain why it allowed the economy to deteriorate for 1,826 days (during UPA rule) before making a false promise of reviving the economy in 100 days."

Javdekar, who was speaking to reporters, said the PM's promise was an admission of failure, despite the government having touted itself as run by a trio of economic wizards -- the PM, P Chidambaram and Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

Congress was quick to dismiss BJP's charge of economic mismanagement. Union minister Renuka Chowdhary wondered if BJP knew there was a global recession. She said, "There is a global problem. There is recession." The minister added the economy would be "more robust" and problems sorted out if Congress was voted to power.

The two principal rivals in the Lok Sabha battle are engaged in a verbal duel over financial matters as they move into the third round of elections.

BJP on Saturday also accused Congress was engineering a scam to jack up prices of sugar and cement with the objective of funding its campaign.

But Chowdhary reacted tersely to the charge, saying BJP should first answer how it the got funds for polls when it was in power. "They (BJP) should know..." she said.

Javdekar had alleged, "Congress, NCP and other UPA parties are collecting election funds through a scam by which the government first allowed sugar to be exported at Rs 18/kg with subsidy and within three months allowed import of sugar at Rs 23/kg."

Ambani copter sabotage: 52 staff benched

26 Apr 2009,

MUMBAI: Taking a serious view of the Anil Ambani helicopter sabotage case, Air Works has asked 52 of its non-technical helper staff to remain off duty till the time the investigations are over. Air Works handles repair and maintenance for Ambani's Bell 412 chopper, which was recently found with stones in one of its fuel tanks.

"Air Works has "advised" 52 of its non-technical helper staff to remain off duty till the investigation is over," a company spokesperson said. Air Works has a total of 60 non-technical helpers out of its 200 total employees, officials and managerial staff in Mumbai. Police officials spoke of a dispute between an employees' union of Air Works and the management, alluding to it as a possible cause behind the sabotage attempt.

The matter pertains to a police case filed by an Air Works official on Thursday alleging that unknown persons had tried to sabotage Anil Ambani's Bell 412 chopper.

India's ICICI bank quarterly profit down 35 pct

ICICI Bank Ltd., India's largest private bank, said Saturday that its quarterly profit slid over 35 percent as the global financial crisis eroded fee income in commercial and retail banking.

The bank said it was also bracing itself for rising bad loans by increasing provisions.

ICICI said its net profit after tax for the January to March quarter was 7.44 billion rupees ($147 million), down from 11.5 billion rupees in the same quarter last year.

Total income slid to 92.0 billion rupees ($1.8 billion) from 103.9 billion rupees.

Chief financial officer Chanda Kochhar told reporters Saturday that she expects to see moderate loan growth of 5 percent to 10 percent during the current fiscal year.

"Given the current scenario, the priority is to conserve capital and maintain the quality of book," she said.

Kochhar is to take over as chief executive after K.V. Kamath retires on April 30.

ICICI said that to conserve capital and contain risk, it trimmed its loan book 3.5 percent to 2.18 trillion rupees ($43 billion) as of the end of March, down from 2.26 trillion rupees at the same time last year.

It also increased provisioning for bad loans over 14 percent last quarter to 10.85 billion rupees ($214 million), up from 9.48 billion rupees during the same period last year.

The bank said deposits slipped 10.7 percent from a year ago to 2.18 trillion rupees ($43 billion).
Hit by slowdown, ICICI Bank profits drop by 35% in Q4
26 Apr 2009,

MUMBAI: ICICI Bank, the largest private sector bank in India, reported a net profit of Rs 744 crore for the January-March quarter, a drop of 35% from Rs 1,150 crore reported during the same quarter last year. ICICI Bank's profit took a hit because of higher bad debts, slowdown in loan offtake and lower fee-based income that includes income from distribution of financial products. The bank's fourth quarter (Q4) profits were lower than analysts' expectation of Rs 774 crore.

However, for investors the good news is despite a fall in profits, the bank has decided to maintain its dividend payout at Rs 11 per share.

The bank's total income too fell during Q4, by 11.4%, to Rs 9,203 crore from Rs 10,391 crore a year earlier. Lately it has slowed lending as it is trying to tackle a rising bad loans in its main business segment, the retail market. It is also trying to increase the share of low-cost deposits — savings account and current account — in its total deposits.

On a consolidated basis, for the full year ended March 2009 (FY09), the bank's net profit jumped 10.6% to Rs 3,757 crore compared to Rs 3,398 crore during the previous year. Its total income during FY09 rose 6.8% to Rs 64,153 crore from Rs 60,053 crore during FY08.

For the current year, ICICI Bank has decided to slow down its lending activities as bad debts are hurting. Chanda Kochhar, the CEO-designate, said that ICICI Bank's corporate and retail loan is expected to grow at about 5-10%. "This coming year we'll moderate our loan growth," Kochhar said in a post-result call. "Our strategy would be to conserve liquidity, conserve capital, contain risk and watch how the economic scenario moves and actually focus on restructuring our deposit base."

Hit by slowdown, ICICI Bank profits drop by 35% in Q4

26 Apr 2009,
MUMBAI: ICICI Bank, the largest private sector bank in India, reported a net profit of Rs 744 crore for the January-March quarter, a drop of 35% from Rs 1,150 crore reported during the same quarter last year. ICICI Bank's profit took a hit because of higher bad debts, slowdown in loan offtake and lower fee-based income that includes income from distribution of financial products. The bank's fourth quarter (Q4) profits were lower than analysts' expectation of Rs 774 crore.

However, for investors the good news is despite a fall in profits, the bank has decided to maintain its dividend payout at Rs 11 per share.

The bank's total income too fell during Q4, by 11.4%, to Rs 9,203 crore from Rs 10,391 crore a year earlier. Lately it has slowed lending as it is trying to tackle a rising bad loans in its main business segment, the retail market. It is also trying to increase the share of low-cost deposits — savings account and current account — in its total deposits.

On a consolidated basis, for the full year ended March 2009 (FY09), the bank's net profit jumped 10.6% to Rs 3,757 crore compared to Rs 3,398 crore during the previous year. Its total income during FY09 rose 6.8% to Rs 64,153 crore from Rs 60,053 crore during FY08.

For the current year, ICICI Bank has decided to slow down its lending activities as bad debts are hurting. Chanda Kochhar, the CEO-designate, said that ICICI Bank's corporate and retail loan is expected to grow at about 5-10%. "This coming year we'll moderate our loan growth," Kochhar said in a post-result call. "Our strategy would be to conserve liquidity, conserve capital, contain risk and watch how the economic scenario moves and actually focus on restructuring our deposit base."

Ambani copter sabotage: 52 staff benched

26 Apr 2009,

MUMBAI: Taking a serious view of the Anil Ambani helicopter sabotage case, Air Works has asked 52 of its non-technical helper staff to remain off duty till the time the investigations are over. Air Works handles repair and maintenance for Ambani's Bell 412 chopper, which was recently found with stones in one of its fuel tanks.

"Air Works has "advised" 52 of its non-technical helper staff to remain off duty till the investigation is over," a company spokesperson said. Air Works has a total of 60 non-technical helpers out of its 200 total employees, officials and managerial staff in Mumbai. Police officials spoke of a dispute between an employees' union of Air Works and the management, alluding to it as a possible cause behind the sabotage attempt.

The matter pertains to a police case filed by an Air Works official on Thursday alleging that unknown persons had tried to sabotage Anil Ambani's Bell 412 chopper.

Air India gets new interim chief

25 Apr 2009,

NEW DELHI: Unhappy with the performance of state-run carrier Air India, the government has decided to appoint an interim chairman and managing director for the carrier in place of incumbent Raghu Menon, officials confirmed on Saturday.

A list of names has also been forwarded to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet for a regular chief to run the National Aviation Company of India Ltd, which was formed last year after Indian Airlines was merged into Air India, they added.

In the interim, Menon, an officer of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), is being replaced by another officer from the service, E.K. Bharat Bhushan, who currently serves as joint secretary and financial adviser in the civil aviation ministry.

The decision was taken after a high-power meeting here Friday chaired by Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar and also attended by Principal Secretary in Prime Minister's Office T.K.A. Nair and Civil Aviation Secretary M. Madhavan Nambiar.

"Mr. Menon may be considered for the new regulatory authority for the sector. He is currently on leave," a senior official in the ministry said, referring to the proposed Airports Economic Regulatory Authority.

Bharat Bhushan will continue to serve as joint secretary and financial adviser.

"The new full-time chairman and managing director will be appointed anytime. It could happen even before the new government takes over," a spokesperson for the ministry said.

The change has come in the backdrop of falling market share of the state-run carrier even though it is going through a major fleet expansion programme to induct 111 new Boeing and Airbus aircraft over the next few years.

The company has already sought Rs.2,500 crore from the government in the form of equity and soft loan to finance the fleet expansion - 68 aircraft from the US manufacturer and 43 aircraft from the European consortium.

Officials said the merger between Air India and Indian Airlines, with the stated objective of greater operational synergies, has also not been smooth, delaying the carrier's bid to join the Star Alliance, the leading global interline pact.

A new role for Menon will be decided soon, even though his immediate predecessor at Air India, V. Thulasidas, is also said to be in contention for the top post at the new aviation regulatory authority.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Unwinding of long calls at 3500; Nifty support 3400

24 Apr 2009, ET Bureau

MUMBAI: The formation of bull-put spread, which hinted at moderate bullish sentiments among investors, was clearly visible from the index movement Friday.

Indian markets advanced for the consecutive second day and seventh week straight as traders covered their short positions and bought moderately in the spot segment.

Nifty April futures provisionally ended at a discount of 5 points, against a premium of 2 points on Thursday. The futures price rose 1.43 per cent and added 13.36 lakh shares (provisional) in open interest. The cost of carry was negative 10.06 per cent, suggesting moderate build up of short positions in the contract.

On the other hand, Nifty May futures provisionally closed at a wide premium of 11 points to the spot. Buy quantity was thrice that of sell, indicating build up of long positions. Even the calendar spread suggests rollover of long positions in the contract.

Unwinding of long call was observed at Nifty 3500. Call writing was seen at 3600 strike while unwinding of short calls was seen at 3300 strike. This suggests Nifty may face resistance in 3500-3600 zone. On the other hand, huge put writing was observed at 3400 while unwinding of long puts witnessed at 3300 level. The options data hints at a range of 3400-3525 for the near term.

“Though Indian markets have so far rallied astonishingly, they are currently trading at overbought levels and hence we are booking profits at every rise and are holding cash to enter at lower levels. But if global markets demonstrate positive cues on Monday, I expect Nifty to move past 3500 giving a positive breakout on higher side. Till such time Nifty breaches 3500 on closing basis, I will advise players to remain light in the markets,” said Samit Patil, analyst at Connoisseur Wealth Advisory.

Among stock futures, Reliance Industries rose 1.15 per cent and shed 16.20 lakh shares in open interest. ICICI Bank advanced 2.11 per cent and OI shed 39200 shares. State Bank of India climbed 3.46 per cent while Tata Steel slipped 0.93 per cent as players unwound long positions in the stock.

DLF gained 2.22 per cent while OI shed 35.34 lakh shares. JP Associates jumped 5.87 per cent. Bharti Airtel advanced 5.78 per cent and Maruti Suzuki rose 1.16 per cent.

In spot, the 50-share Nifty closed the day 1.67 per cent higher at 3480.75. Intraday, it touched a low of 3402.90 and high of 3491.35, a band of 89 points. The top gainers were M&M (6.09%), Bharti Airtel (5.91%), Grasim (5.82%) and Axis Bank (5.49%).

Total F&O turnover on NSE was Rs 68374 crore against Rs 68331 crore on Thursday.

Meanwhile, stock markets recovered strongly in Europe as data showed business confidence rebounding from record lows in Germany.

Ambani chopper subbotage: 4 detained

24 April 2009

Mumbai: Four people have been detained in connection with Thursday's suspected sabotage of industrialist Anil Ambani's chopper that he was supposed to have flown from the Mahalaxmi Race Course helipad to his office in Navi Mumbai before the incident was detected.

"We are still investigating the matter and questioning the people concerned with the helicopter's maintenance," said Senior Inspector S.M. Ghuge of the Santacruz Airport Police Station.

"We shall initiate appropriate proceedings, including arresting them, only after getting proper evidence," Ghuge told IANS.

Ambani didn't finally take the 20-minute flight Thursday, a company source said, as he was tied up with a board meeting.

Later in the day, maintenance personnel discovered pebbles, small stones and mud in the fuel tank, and said if it had gone undetected, it could have led to a disaster while in flight.

"Usually, on all Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays, he (Anil Ambani) takes this chopper to fly to his office in Dhirubhai Ambani Knowledge City," the source said.

He was scheduled to leave for Navi Mumbai along with a high-level team of nine Reliance Infocomm officials in the same chopper Friday morning. But as the chopper has been grounded till investigations are completed, Ambani took the 100-minute drive to Navi Mumbai.

The source said there were several other big and small choppers parked near Ambani's, but none was touched by the suspected saboteurs. "Apparently, Ambani's chopper was singled out," he said.

A senior official of Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) said the Bell 412 13-seater helicopter was for non-scheduled operations. "We are in no way connected with their regular operations, or any other issue," the official said.

"It is very difficult for us to say who are the persons having authorised access to such sensitive areas."

A spokesman for Air Works India Engineering, which is responsible for the maintenance of the helicopter, told IANS that a technician discovered that the chopper was tampered with after he noticed that the oil tank valve cap was not fitted properly.

The engineers then checked the helicopter to discover pebbles, small stones and mud in the fuel tank. They said if the incident had gone undetected, it could have led to a disaster while in flight.

Could consider PM's post: Karat

Tirupati: CPM general secretary Prakash Karat Wednesday said that he could consider accepting the post of Prime Minister under "inevitable circumstances", even as he categorically ruled supporting the Congress in forming the next government. Though he claimed that he was not at all interested in the post of Prime Minister, Karat told reporters that he would think of it if there was no other option.

Regarding the Left parties support to the Congress post-polls, Karat outrightly ruled out any such possibility and said that a non-Congress, non-BJP grouping would emerge as the largest political set up to form the next government at the Centre.

The Left parties would not support Congress in forming the next government "under any circumstances", he said. Congress would 'undoubtedly' not be in a position to form the next government and has now become all alone with allies deserting it.

Regarding the BJP he said that the saffron party was not going to open its account in several states.

Karat, accompanied by TDP Chief N. Chandrababu Naidu, was here to take part in the last leg of campaigning that came to a halt Tuesday evening.

Digvijay Singh booked for 'threatening' Mayawati

Lucknow: Senior Congress leader and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh has been booked for violating the model code of conduct after he allegedly threatened to "use" the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, police said Wednesday.

"The case against Digvijay Singh was registered Tuesday night on the directions of the district administration," Hardoi Deputy Superintendent of Police B.B. Chaurasia told IANS on phone.

At a campaign rally Monday in Mallwan locality in Hardoi, about 110 km from here, Digvijay Singh reportedly said the central government would "use" the CBI against Mayawati if she continued to harass Congress workers.

No Lalu, no UPA, indicates Paswan

22 April 2009

Patna: Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief Ram Vilas Paswan indicated Wednesday that it would rethink its relationship with the Congress if Rashtriya Janata Dal's (RJD) Lalu Prasad was not part of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

"Jo secular forces hain usme bitterness nahin aani chahiye. Lekin agar Congress aisa keh rahi hai, tho hum sochenge. (There should no bitterness among secular forces. But if the Congress is saying so, we will think about it)," Paswan said when he was asked if he would continue in the UPA if Lalu Prasad was not in it.

Paswan, who is in his constituency Hajipur, told a television channel that it was too early to comment on an alliance with the Third Front.

The LJP chief's comment comes a day after the Congress took umbrage at Lalu Prasad's remark that the UPA's prime ministerial candidate would be decided only after the elections. An irate Pranab Mukherjee, a Congress leader, said in that case there would be a question mark on whether Lalu Prasad would be in the UPA government after the Lok Sabha polls.

The RJD chief, who had said he considered Prime Minister Manmohan Singh a "nice man", responded by saying "time will tell who is with whom".

Later in the night, the tensions eased with Mukherjee saying that Lalu Prasad had spoken to him on telephone to convey that he would be with the Congress in forming a UPA government.

The LJP and RJD have tied up for an alliance in Bihar, leaving the Congress to go it alone in the 40 Lok Sabha seats.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Phase II: No clear gains for Congress, BJP

24 Apr 2009,

NEW DELHI: Round II of the grand Indian electoral spectacle did little to shake off fears of a shaky coalition government at the Centre as neither the Congress nor BJP appear to have made significant gains in Thursday's polling for 141 Lok Sabha seats. An overall turnout of 55% expected to go up when all figures are in —didn't give political pundits any key pointers to the election, leaving them with their earlier estimate of a fragmented mandate.

The story of a splintered vote and an unclear verdict seem to have infected the assembly polls to two states — Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. For the first time, Andhra Pradesh may get a hung house, say observers. The same is being said for Orissa, even if an edge is being given to Naveen Patnaik's BJD.

Apparently, Chiranjeevi's Praja Rajyam has eaten into Congress vote in AP, where the turnout was a stunning 68%. It's said that voters in the state seem to have drawn a distinction between the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls with many opting for Chiranjeevi for the state election but Congress for the national poll. In Orissa (55% turnout), Patnaik may have done better in this round but not well enough to muster a majority on his own.

There was some excitement in the Congress as it claimed to have done "very well" in central UP — a state where it has been reduced to a minor player. It's said that apart from Amethi, where Rahul Gandhi is certain to win, the party fancied its chance in the Pratapgarh, Sultanpur and Basti seats. Samajwadi Party, too, claimed to have done well in this area.

In Maharashtra where the turnout was 56%, it's said to have been fairly even between the UPA and NDA. In all, the fates of 25 seats were determined in the state and both the Congress-NCP combine and the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance claim they will get around 14-15 seats, which means they are conceding 10-11 seats to the other side.

A low turnout of 44% in Bihar is said to have favoured the JD(U)-BJP combine. Observers said poor turnout was a sort of endorsement of the incumbent government --- as people were favourably inclined towards the ruling NDA combine, they didn't go out in large numbers to vote against it.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur cast their vote at a polling station in Guwahati Lok Sabha constituency in Assam, where the turnout was a high 62%. The second phase of the five-round elections would have sealed the electoral fate of political biggies like NCP chief Sharad Pawar (Madha), Union Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath (Chhindwara), LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan (Hajipur) and BJP leader Sushma Swaraj (Vidisha).

Gates, Buffett, Jobs best US CEOs; Lehman's Fuld, Citi's Pandit among 20 worst

23 Apr 2009, PTI

NEW YORK: Software czar Bill Gates, legendary investor Warren Buffett and Apple's Steve Jobs have been named among the 20 best American CEOs of all time while Citigroup's India-born chief Vikram Pandit has found a place among the 20 worst ever. The worst CEOs in American history is the bankrupt Lehman Brothers' Dick Fuld.

The list of '20 Best CEOs' complied by US publication Conde Nast Portfolio is topped by auto maker Ford Motor's Henry Ford, while financial services major J P Morgan's J P Morgan has cornered the second place.

Jobs, Gates and Buffett are placed at 7th, 10th and 16th positions, respectively.

"... we put together a panel of business-school professors to help us come up with a list of the 20 best American CEOs of all time. Ford came out on top," the publication said.

The co-founder of Microsoft, Gates, is "said to be cranky and impatient manager -- an approach that helped Microsoft earn USD 60 billion last year", the magazine noted.

"He is also known to be somewhat unfriendly to competition. In 2001, to settle a massive antitrust suit brought against Microsoft, Gates agreed to share technical information with other software makers," Conde Nast Portfolio said.

Writing on Buffett, the publication said that when the Oracle of Omaha bought a piece of Goldman Sachs last year, not only did he receive better terms than the government, he got better returns.

"As of February, Buffett's USD 5 billion investment had appreciated 12 per cent, while the Treasury's USD 10 billion stake had fallen 25 per cent," it added.

Wal-Mart's Sam Walton is ranked third, followed by car maker General Motors' Alfred Solan at the fourth and Lou Gerstner of IBM at the fifth spot.

Other names include iron and steel baron Andrew Carnegie (9th), New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (11th), Walt Disney (14th) and Washington Post's Katharine Graham (17th) and famous Oprah Winfrey Show's Oprah Winfrey at the 20th place.

Donning the role of a commander ill-equipped to save the Titanic of banking world, Citigroup's India-born chief Vikram Pandit has found a place among the 20 worst ever CEOs in the American history, but the top honours has gone to bankrupt Lehman Brothers' Dick Fuld.

The list of America's 20 worst ever CEOs, compiled by business magazine Conde Nast Portfolio after consulting with a panel of business school professors, identifies the business "leaders who helped drive their companies into the ground."

These 20 include "six men who helped make today's economy stink", the magazine said.

The list has been topped by Dick Fuld, under whose stewardship Lehman Brothers became the world's biggest ever bankruptcy candidate and marked the epitome of the current global economic crisis.

Pandit has been ranked last at 20th position in the list, which also includes troubled insurer AIG's Martin Sullivan and failed investment bank Merrill Lynch's Stan O'Neal as also computer giant HP's former chief Carly Fiorina, Enron's former chief Ken Lay and bankrupt telecom firm WorldCom's Bernie Ebbers.

About Pandit, the magazine said that he "did not create the mess Citi is in, but he is the financial services equivalent of the Titanic's Edward Smith — a commander ill- equipped to save his ship."

Microsoft sales plunge for first time in 23 years

24 Apr 2009,

SAN FRANCISCO: Microsoft reported a drop in quarterly revenues on Thursday for the first time in the 23 years since it went public.

But investors still gave the world largest software company their approval, sending Microsoft shares higher in after-market trading as its aggressive cost cutting measures preserved profitability.

The Seattle-based company said its revenues dropped six percent to $13.7 billion, compared to the year-ago quarter. Profits of $3 billion represented a 32-percent drop from the $4.4 billion it earned in the same period last year.

The company has been hit hard by a drop in consumer spending, with people delaying or canceling purchases of new computers. Sales of Microsoft's Windows operating system were down for only the second time in history, but Microsoft said it saw signs that the worst may be over.

"While market conditions remained weak during the quarter, I was pleased with the organization's ability to offset revenue pressures with the swift implementation of cost-savings initiatives," Microsoft chief financial officer Chris Liddell said in a statement Thursday.

"We expect the weakness to continue through at least the next quarter."

Nano booking will give higher returns than FD

24 Apr 2009,

NEW DELHI: If you book a Nano, and unfortunately not selected in the draw, do not despair as your booking amount will fetch you better returns than even a fixed deposit. With RBI's recent reverse repo and repo rate cuts, banks have started slashing deposit rates, with fixed deposits now fetching lesser interest rates as against what Tatas will pay on your booking amount.

Booking for the Nano which opened on April 9, will close on April 25. Tata Motors will only be able to allot only one lakh cars in the first phase, within two months of closure of bookings. But for those who are not successful in getting the car in the first phase, have the option to retain their deposit on which Tata will pay an interest of 8.5% for people who have to wait between one to two years to get their Nano, and 8.75% for over two years.

As against this, a fixed deposit with a PSU like United Bank of India will fetch you an interest of 8% for 36 months. SBI at present offers 7.75% on deposits (below one crore) for a period of one to less than two years, while a deposit for two years to less than 1000 days, fetches interest of 8%.

"This is a great offer. Even if a customer is not successful in getting selected in the draw the first time, he can retain his booking amount over six to eight months on which Tata will pay more than what he would have earned if he had invested in a FD," a bank official said. The booking amount is Rs 95,000 for the base variant , Rs 1.2 lakh for middle and Rs 1.4 lakh for the top-end airconditioned model.

So it would make sense to retain the deposit with the bank till the time the next allotment takes place, say banking experts, if you are serious about buying the car, while at the same time earning a higher return (8.5%) than a fixed deposit in a bank (7-8 % or even lower if revised downwards over the next few days).

RBI on Tuesday lowered repo and reverse repo rates by 25 basis points each to 4.75% and 3.25% respectively. The move has triggered banks to slash deposit rates, with banks including ICICI slashing it by 25-50 basis points, and HDFC by 25 bps in select maturities.

"This is a first of its kind in the industry. Earlier when customers booked a Zen or Indica, the company paid interest only for the period the cars delivery was delayed," a senior executive with a private bank said.

The one-lakh car has met with an astounding response with most bookings coming for the top-end air-conditioned model, which carries a price tag of Rs 1.72 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi). The top variant in Mumbai is priced at Rs 1.85 lakh. Tata Motors has said that it would be able to produce only 50,000 units of Nano from its Pantnagar facility in Uttarakhand, until its dedicated plant at Sanand (Gujarat) starts production late this year.

Tata set to roll out JLR in India by mid-2009

24 Apr 2009,

SHANGHAI: More than a year after buying Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford, Tata Motors is all set to drive them into India, looking to launch the Tatas' future roll call iconic brands by middle of this year. "We are set to launch our cars in India and the plans would be announced next month. The cars are likely to be launched by the middle of this year," MDs of Jaguar and Land Rover told TOI at the ongoing Shanghai Motor Show.

Phil Popham, MD of Land Rover, said the companies would have common dealerships in India and begin direct retail from Mumbai before expanding to other cities. "We are looking at dealerships in the top five major cities in the first phase, though expansion beyond Mumbai would happen in a phased manner," he said.

Land Rover has plans to offer its entire range in India, Popham said, adding that the cars would come as completely-built units (CBUs) through the import route, thus attracting cumulative duties of over 100%.

Global sales for Land Rover suffered last year, impacted by the slowdown in the western markets, and closed 2008 at 187,000 units against 226,000 units in 2007. "While the first half was in line with our expectations, recession spread right through in the second half of the year, leading to a big decline," Popham said, adding that he expected "less volumes" than the 2008 levels this year.

On the prospects from the Indian market, he said the demand for luxury cars was currently limited. "We understand that the premium end of the market is still small. But we expect the market to grow," Popham said, adding that sales could be expected only in a few hundreds "to start with."

Mike O'Driscoll, MD of Jaguar, also said that the market for luxury cars in India was not very big now, though holding prospects for growth. "It may initially be a smaller market to start with but we feel that the market has huge potential. We are introducing cars in India for the long-term and understand that it will take a few years to develop the brand," O'Driscoll said.

Commenting on the high import duties in India, he said it was something that was unavoidable. "It is like a fact of life and something we have to deal with," he said. Asked whether the two brands would have synergies with parent Tata Motors on the car retail front, the MDs said no such arrangement was being looked into. "It will not be the case as these brands are different to what they (Tata) sell," Popham said, though adding that Tata Motors would be advising the companies in terms of India expansion plans.

RBI seen missing its monetary targets

24 Apr 2009, ET Bureau

One of the important aspects of monetary policy, closely watched by money market participants, is RBI’s projections of growth in monetary aggregates such as money supply (M3), credit and deposits. The targets have been set at 17% and 20%, respectively, for growth in M3 and credit for FY10 against actual growth of 18.7% and 17.3% in FY09. Whether or not these targets are achieved during the fiscal, remains to be seen, as RBI has failed to meet its monetary targets over the past few years.

There was a wide deviation between targeted rates and the actual growth rates. For instance, growth rate of money supply was expected at 14%, 15% and 17-17.5% for FY06, FY07 and FY08, respectively. But actual growth in money supply was above 20% in each of these years. While growth for bank credit was anticipated around 20% in FY06 and FY07, bank credit actually recorded a growth around 30% in both the financial years.

When the target was revised to 25% in FY08 and FY09, bank credit grew merely 22% and 17%, respectively. Even growth in deposits surpassed projections. A deviation up to 5% from the projections is acceptable. But such an extensive departure raised doubts regarding the effectiveness of monetary policy.

Money supply growth was targeted by monetary policy, prior to the early 90s. However, with most economies taking the globalisation route, central banks by and large don’t target monetary aggregates. However, there are a few central banks that still follow this traditional exercise and RBI is one of them.

RBI plans to make India subprime proof

22 Apr 2009, ET Bureau

KOLKATA: The US subprime crisis is still very fresh in every policy maker’s mind. And Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor D Subbarao is no exception. It is now also well known that the relaxed loan securitisation practice in the US was one of the key factors behind the subprime blues that eventually led to the global financial disorder.

To immunise the local system further from possible securitisation-led trouble, RBI has now prescribed a minimum lock-in period and minimum retention criteria for securitising loans originated and purchased by banks.

This means banks are now barred from selling the assets immediately after the creation or acquisition of assets. Aggressive banks in India, especially private players, used to securitise loans immediately after originating or purchasing these from other banks. RBI has observed that banks are also dividing the total loan for one project into different tranches and securitising a few tranches even before the total disbursement is complete, thus passing on the project implementation risk also to the investors.

RBI has made an attempt to correct this by prescribing the lock-in period. The banking regulator is, otherwise, of the view that the country’s securitisation framework is reasonably prudent and has been able to minimise the incentives that have led to the problems, which surfaced in the current crisis.

In step, RBI has also relaxed the norms for matured asset reconstruction companies (ARCs), which have completed five years. According to RBI, ARCs will now enjoy more time for recovering the bad assets they bought from banks or other lenders. The banking regulator has proposed to extend the timeframe to seven years for recovering the financial assets. Earlier, it was stipulated that ARCs complete the process within five years from the date of acquisition of the financial assets.

In its policy stance, RBI has proposed “to give an extension of two more years for realisation of the assets in respect of the security receipts issued by securitisation companies and reconstruction companies, which have completed five years.”

This move is, however, an interim one. The banking regulator said that it has received suggestions from various quarters to relax the timeframe. “Requests for extending the timeframe in this regard are being examined.” While the final policy guidelines are being put in place, ARCs will enjoy this benefit in the interim.

IMF says policy rates in India still high

22 Apr 2009, PTI

WASHINGTON: The International Monetary Fund on Wednesday said that policy rates of the Reserve Bank are high, even as the central bank had cut the short-term lending and borrowing rates by 25 basis points each yesterday.

"Policy rates remain high in real terms in India and further rate cuts would help bolster credit growth," IMF said in its latest World Economic Outlook.

There is room for additional monetary easing in a number of economies, it said.

The RBI had yesterday slashed short term lending (repo) and borrowing (reverse repo) rates by 25 basis points each to 4.75 per cent and 3.25 per cent respectively.

To a query whether policy rates in India has hit rock bottom, RBI Governor D Subbarao today said "I will not believe that zero is the floor for us. The floor for us is certainly above zero. But where it is I wouldn't like to speculate here."

Post Lehaman Brothers crisis in September 2008, the RBI has reduced repo rate by 425 basis points from 9 per cent while reverse repo rate by 275 basis points from 6 per cent.

RBI has injected more than Rs 4 lakh crore into the system through various policy measures since then.

Banks can give loan guarantees for over 10 yrs

23 Apr 2009, REUTERS

MUMBAI: Banks can now issue loan guarantees for more than 10 years, the central bank said in a notification posted on its website. Earlier, the Reserve Bank of India allowed banks to guarantee shorter maturities below 10 years, while development financial institutions could guarantee loans for more than 10 years.

"In view of the changed scenario of the banking industry where banks extend long-term loans for periods longer than 10 years for various projects, it has been decided to allow banks to also issue guarantees for periods beyond 10 years," the RBI said.

But the central bank cautioned that banks must take into account the impact of very long duration guarantees on their asset-liability management and a policy for these guarantees must be taken with the approval of the bank's board of directors.

Nifty moves higher;Wipro,Tata Steel lead

23 Apr 2009, ET Bureau

MUMBAI: Indian key indices rose sharply after a brief choppy session Thursday as buying activity resumed in the frontline stocks. IT, auto and metal stocks showed strength while realty and healthcare space edged lower.

“The big ticket results include Reliance Industries where India Infoline expects an 8.4% yoy fall in revenues and 6.9% yoy drop in net profit. A positive surprise on this front will give some boost to the counter. But the main trigger for the bulls would be a short squeeze,” said India Infoline report.

At 12:15 pm, National Stock Exchange’s Nifty was at 3380.10, up 49.80 points or 1.50 per cent. The index touched a high of 3382 and low of 3310.50.

Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensex was at 10991.76, up 174.22 points or 1.61 per cent. The 30-share index hit a high of 10995.99 and low of 10758.97.

BSE Midcap Index was up 0.14 per cent and BSE Smallcap Index declined 0.06 per cent.

Amongst the sectoral indices, BSE IT Index was up 3.23 per cent, BSE Metal Index moved up 2.67 per cent and BSE Auto Index gained 2.18 per cent. BSE Realty Index was down 0.71 per cent and BSE Healthcare Index was modestly lower.

Wipro (7.83%), Tata Steel (5.62%), SAIL (4.66%), Tata Motors (4.19%) and Reliance Communications (3.97%) were the top Nifty gainers.

Unitech (-4.72%), HCL Tech (-3.84%), Sun Pharma (-2.04%), Bharti Airtel (-1.82%) and BPCL (-1.52%) were the top Nifty losers.

Market breadth was negative on the BSE with 1054 advances and 1123 declines.

Maoists rule India's 'Red Corridor'

BANGALORE - Indian Maoists hijacked a train with 800 passengers in the eastern state of Jharkhand on Wednesday morning. Although the crisis was defused within five hours, when the Maoists released the train and its passengers, the incident has sparked grave concern throughout the security establishment.
The ease with which the Maoists were able to stage an operation of this magnitude - and at a time when security has been tightened for general elections - has laid bare yet again that it is the Maoists' writ, not that of the government that runs through this part of the country.

The train was on its way from Barkakana in Jharkhand to Mugalsarai in the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh when it was hijacked near Hehegarha railway station in Latehar district. Around 200 Maoists are said to have carried out the operation. A railway station in Palamu was bombed as well.

In March 2006, a train was hijacked in the same district. Passengers were set free after 12 hours. The Indian Railways have been targeted repeatedly by the Maoists. Besides holding-up trains, they have blasted railway tracks, burned railway stations, looted weapons from railway police and abducted personnel.

No passengers were hurt in Wednesday's hijacking and hostage drama. The operation, which took place on the eve of the second part of India's month-long five-phase general election, was aimed at scaring voters into staying away from polling booths.

Maoists have called for a boycott of the polls in the states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Bihar. In a bid to disrupt polling during the first phase of voting last week, they detonated landmines, raided polling booths and torched electronic voting machines. Around 20 people were killed and scores injured on polling day alone.

Analysts have sought to downplay the impact of the Maoist's poll violence. Bibhu Prasad Routray, research fellow at the Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management has written that "Maoist violence on April 16 affected a meager 0.09% (71) of the 76,000 polling stations that were identified as vulnerable in the first phase." He argues that Maoists suffered damage in the violence they sought to inflict on the security forces in the run-up to voting.

While the Maoists have carried out spectacular attacks and did disrupt polls to some extent, they were not fully successful in effecting a boycott. Voter turnout in the constituencies worst hit by Maoist violence was a respectable 50%.

Maoist influence runs through a stretch of territory referred to as the "Red Corridor". This extends from the Telangana region in Andhra Pradesh through Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand up to Bihar. Areas in western Orissa and eastern Uttar Pradesh are also under Maoist influence. And they have some presence in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka as well.

The area where the Maoists operate has grown dramatically in recent years. In the early 1990s the number of districts affected by varying degrees of Maoist violence stood at just 15 in four states. This rose to 55 districts in nine states by the end of 2003 and to 156 districts in 13 states in 2004. Maoists are believed to be operating now in around 200 districts (of a total of 602 districts in the country) in 17 states.

Government officials point out that these statistics and the name Red Corridor have conjured up images of Maoists being in control of a large swathe of land and posing a threat to the Indian state. An official in Chhattisgarh's Bastar region told Asia Times Online that while the Maoists do control "some area" in Dantewada district and are able to carry out big attacks in several states, in most areas of the Red Corridor they operate as a hit-and-run force.

"They do not threaten the government, either at the state or the federal level and they are nowhere near sparking off a general uprising," he said, drawing attention to the diminishing public support for the Maoists and increasing resistance to their diktats.

Human-rights activists argue that while the Maoist threat might "not have Delhi on its knees, it is a fact that the problem has laid bare India's failure to deliver good governance, to respond to the plight of the poorest and most marginalized sections of its population".

Unlike jihadi violence that comes from across the border in Pakistan, Maoist violence has its roots firmly in India. Indeed, the Maoist problem has left India red-faced.

Districts that fall in the Red Corridor are rich in minerals like iron ore and bauxite. But the people living there, who are largely Adivasi or tribal are desperately poor. Exploited by forest officials, contractors, mining companies and middlemen and neglected by the state, villagers in the Red Corridor are among the worst off in the country.

And it is to liberate them from their oppressors and the Indian state that the Maoists claim to be waging their armed struggle.

It is true the Maoists have improved life for the Adivasis by forcing local officials to dig wells or pay better wages to the villagers. But over time, the liberators have turned oppressors themselves. Villagers who don't obey the Maoists have been killed and Maoist violence stands in the way of development projects.

The scale of Maoist operations has grown dramatically over the years. In November 2005, more than 1,000 Maoists stormed a jail in Jehanabad in Bihar and freed about 350 of their jailed comrades. Armories and camps of the police and paramilitary forces have been raided. A week ago, they signaled capacity to stand and fight the security forces. Around 200 Maoists stormed a state-owned bauxite mining company in the eastern state of Orissa, taking around 100 employees hostage. They battled for more than nine hours with members of India's Special Operations Group and its Central Industrial Security Force before they finally retreated.

Analysts have drawn attention to increasing Maoist attacks on infrastructure. P Ramana, research fellow at the Delhi-based Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, has pointed out that 62 telecommunication towers were damaged by the Maoists in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Orissa in from 2005 to 2008, with 43 of these occurring in 2008. These attacks are aimed at disrupting "communication amongst the security forces, as well as between 'police informants' - who have been provided cellular telephones - and the security forces, in order that operations against the rebels get impaired," he writes.

The Maoists have also been blowing up power lines and service towers. In May 2007, they blew up three 132 KVA high-tension towers in the Bastar region, plunging six districts into darkness for a week and disrupting normal power distribution for a fortnight. "Functioning of hospitals, communication systems and rail traffic, besides iron ore mines was badly affected," Ramana points out. In June of last year, two 220 KVA towers were blasted depriving 15,000 villages of electricity.

Maoists have displayed their military capability through their high-profile attacks on railways and other infrastructure. They have been able to inflict losses running into millions of dollars on the state they are seeking to overthrow.

But simultaneously they are inflicting heavy losses on the people they claim they are going to liberate. They have worsened the daily lives of some of India's most exploited people.

Varun files papers, shows signs of maturity

23 Apr 2009,

LUCKNOW: Emotions, shades of agressiveness with tinge of `patriotism' and humour - the speeches of Varun Gandhi at Nawabganj and Bareilly on Wednesday had almost all the elements of a maturing politician. Effort to avoid any legal hassles were evident in whatever the latest poster boy Varun Gandhi said in his maiden speech after his release on parole. He filed his nomination at Pilibhit collectortate at around 2 pm.

Varun's motorcade moved within a heavy security cordon on the route with an armed escort vehicle leading the fleet and half a dozen armed cops around him as personal security officers (PSOs) provided from Delhi and UP police. The venues of Varun's public meetings had heavy deployment of security personnel including jawans from the rapid action force (RAF) and provincial armed constabulary (PAC), apart from the district police as at least video cameras were pressed into operation to shoot each and every movement of the young Gandhi.

Dotted with oneliners like: "Samman ki ladai ladta rahunga" (Will fight for honour), "main chup nahin baithunga" (will not sit back quietly) "Chahe mujhe dobara Etah jaana pade" (Even if I had to go to Etah {Jail?} again), Varun's speech at Nawabganj though had shades of aggressiveness, there were evident efforts to abstain from stepping over the guidelines set by himself in his affidavit submitted before the apex court.

His speech at the second venue - Bareilly - showed a more mature and lively Varun. After a formal appeal for the party candidate from Bareilly, Varun, pointing towards mother Maneka Gandhi who was sitting on the stage, said that his mother cried when he went to jail. "Now you people have to reply to my mothers's tears," Varun said as the crowed shouted in affirmative.

With promises like "main peechhe nahin hatunga" (I will not retreat) and "main aapke bachchon ke samman ke liye jail gaya tha" (I went to jail for the sake of your children's honour and prestige), he claimed that he believed in ahimsa (non-violence) and that his family has taught him not to differentiate between classes and masses. Further, he cautioned: "Agar garibon ke samman ko, kisano ke samman ko, rashtra bhakto ke samman ko koi haani pahunchayega jaise ki 28 tareekh ko Pilibhit mein hua jahan gareeb kison ko goliyan aur laathi khani padi, to main chup nahin baithunga ... chahe mujhe phir Etah jaana parde" (If anyone will dare attack the honour of the poor, the farmers, or the devoted Indians like they did on March 28 in Pilibhit where poor farmers had to face police bullets and laathis, then I will not sit back. Even if it meant going to Etah again)," Varun said amidst thunderous applause.

On a lighter note, moments before Varun concluded his speech, he said: "Kaheen maine kuch galat to nahi kaha...pata chala phir yahan se seedhe Etah jaana pad jaye" (I hope I haven't said anything wrong ... else I might have to go to Etah directly from here). The crowd burst into peels of laughter as Varun left the dais waving to the crowd in appreciation.

However minutes before Varun reached the venue, a few banners and posters reading: "Jo Hindutva ki baat karega wohi desh par raj karega" and "Garv se kaho hum Hindu hain" (Whoever will talk of Hindutva will get to rule India and be proud to say that your are a Hindu) that were hanging on the stage and fluttering near it, were quickly removed. Though the organisers insisted that they had to be removed because of the strong winds, the reason was more than apparent.

At around 2 pm, Varun reached the Pilibhit collectorate where he filed his nomination papers with mother Maneka Gandhi by his side along with a select few party leaders.

Karat snubs Pranab, says no backing Congress

23 Apr 2009,

NEW DELHI: On a day when foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee once again held out an olive branch to the Left saying he did not rule out the possibility of seeking the support of the communists, CPM boss Prakash Karat firmly snubbed Congress's peace offer.

Karat, who was in Tirupati alongwith TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu, said Congress could only play a supporting role at the Centre. He said "under no circumstances" would Left support the formation of a Congress-led government, a point he had made strongly in an interview to TOI on April 2.

Coming as it does just ahead of the second phase of polling, Karat's comments are a blow to the Congress, which is already embroiled in a war of words with erstwhile allies like Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad. NDA has seized on Congress's spats to claim the party would end up being the "third force" after the elections.

Earlier in the day, Mukherjee said, "We are not ruling out any possibility. I am only saying that right now I do not think there will be a need for that." He has made this point before as had Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who has said he "was not ruling out or ruling in anything" with regard to post-poll alliances. He had said he was quite happy to work with the Left.

Karat has not relented from this position despite being asked what would be his choice if the alternative to a Congress-led government was a "communal" government headed by BJP. He said Congress had lost the mandate and so had the BJP, paving the way for a "third front" government.

Ruling out any chance of BJP coming to power, Karat explained 2009 will not be a repeat of 2004. He even had a role cut out for Congress. He said it can support a government led by non-Congress secular parties. "Results of 2004 will not be repeated in 2009. We are working for the defeat of Congress. There is no question of any understanding with Congress to help them form government," he had said earlier.

On the question of Left staking claim to the top job, Karat said Left was not thinking of its own PM. "First we have to decide if Left can join the government or not," he said.

As for an agency report from Tirupati quoting Karat that even he could be PM, the CPM boss told TOI, "It is a wrong report. Press conference was conducted on Tuesday morning and the report has come late on Wednesday. I have complained to the news agency editor."

Asked if Left will not support Congress-led alliance even if there is a possibility of BJP forming the government, Karat said, "There is no question of BJP coming to power."

Karat reiterated that UPA was bound to suffer the most as it was primarily an alliance of secular parties along with the Congress.

Varun faces 'threat for speaking as true Indian'

20 Apr 2009,

NEW DELHI: Controversial Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Varun Gandhi on Monday said he was facing a "threat for speaking as a true Indian Bharatiya Janata Party leader Varun Gandhi.

against terrorism", and asked the Election Commission to direct the Uttar Pradesh government to upgrade his security.

"IB (Intelligence Bureau) reports have disclosed a threat to my safety. Apparently, I am being targeted for speaking out as a true Indian against terrorism," Varun Gandhi wrote to the poll panel.

"Accordingly, there has been a request to the Uttar Pradesh government for an urgent review and upgrade of my security arrangements the elections when I will be campaigning within the state," he said.

He said: "Petty political considerations seem to have come in the way of even this routine procedure".

"I am, therefore, bringing the matter to your (poll panel's) attention so that you may direct the same to any untoward incident that would disrupt the electoral process."

Two days after the Supreme Court released him from jail on parole, Varun Gandhi Saturday accused the Uttar Pradesh government of political vendetta and requested the poll commission to transfer two top officials in Pilibhit constituency of Uttar Pradesh where he is to contest the election.

Varun Gandhi, who was in jail for his reported hate speeches against Muslims.

He was charged under the National Security Act (NSA) and arrested March 28 for making inflammatory remarks against Muslims.

Varun Gandhi files nomination in Pilibhit; vows to fight for Poor

BJP's Lok Sabha candidate, Varun Gandhi has filed nomination from Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh. Varun was accompanied by his mother Maneka Gandhi, while filing the nomination. Addressing the huge gathering at Pilibhit, Varun said that he always believed in 'Ahimsa' or 'Non-Violence'. He also said that he is not afraid to go to jail. Varun not only recounted his bad experience in jail, but also vowed to fight for the poor and farmers.

Varun Gandhi, who is contesting the polls for the first time, looked solid and determined in the Nawabganj rally, as he said, "I am ready to be sent to Etah jail again and again, but will keep fighting for the issues related the dignity of poor people". He also played an emotional chord, by saying, "The public will answer for my mother's tears".

While addressing a huge rally in Pilibhit, Varun Gandhi was at his best by saying, "I will not accept insults heaped on my people - poor, women and farmers. I was there for you before. I am more committed to you now. Going to jail was insulting. But I did not go for myself. I went to jail to preserve your self-respect and your children. I will always be there to protect you".

Varun Gandhi also talked about his father Sanjay Gandhi, "My father was always true to his words. I am like my father in this respect". He recounted his bad experience at Etah jail, saying, "Only I knew what I went through in the jail. I saw my mother crying at Etah jail. I value her tears. I will always stand up for the poor and farmers, even if I am sent to jail again and again".

Varun also took a dig on Mayawati, saying "we need to fight casteism and regionalism". Maneka Gandhi thanked people for their support to Varun. "I owe a lot to people of Pilibhit. I thank you for standing by my son during his tough times. He will always safeguard your interests", said Maneka.

As per the assets declared by Varun Gandhi, he does not own a car and has Rs. 20,000 cash. He also has several flats, Rs. 20 lakh cash in bank accounts and Rs. 98.84 lakh in various investment schemes. Varun Gandhi's total assets amount to around Rs. 4.93 crore.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Post polling, clashes surface among fronts

20 Apr 2009, ET Bureau

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The poll code of conduct apparently kept the ruling Left Democratic Front and the opposition United Democratic Front in Kerala on their best manners during the campaign weeks.

Now that polling is over, reports are coming in about ideological differences being sorted out physically.

Not surprisingly, one of those features the Janata Dal (S), which openly grumbled against its LDF coalition partner CPM during campaign time. On Saturday, miscreants hurled a stone at a car in which JD(S) Kozhikode district president and Vadakara MLA M K Premnath was traveling, at Vattoli in Kozhikode district.

JD(S) state president M P Veerendrakumar, who has been engaged in a verbal duel with CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan ever since JD(S) was denied the Kozhikode seat, described the attack on his party MLA as "fascist", and demanded stern action against the culprits.

Joining issue with the attack on the MLA, UDF convenor P P Thankachan alleged the CPM was perpetrating violence post polling in areas where it thought it would be the loser owing to the JD(S)'s decision to vote against the LDF candidates. There were reports of violence against JD(S) leaders and its offices in Wayanad, Kozhikode, Vadakara and Thiruvananthapuram.

In another development, police in Puthukkad let off two Congressmen who had been taken into custody on suspicion that they were part of a goonda team that had set off from Thrissur to Kannur. The duo were released from the police station after Congress workers gathered in front of the police station, protesting against their custody and stating that they were innocent.

In Kannur, the CPM had alleged a plot by Congress to assassinate expelled CPM leader A P Abdullakutty MP, and indirectly accused Congress MLA K Sudhakaran of masterminding the plot. However, Mr Sudhakaran and Mr Kutty have officially countered the allegation

Sri Lanka gives Tigers ultimatum as thousands flee

20 Apr 2009, REUTERS

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka on Monday gave the Tamil Tiger rebels 24 hours to surrender after thousands of civilians fled the war zone when troops breached an earthen fortification blocking their exit route, the military said.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa told reporters that there were about 35,000 people waiting to leave the military-controlled area.

"With the influx of people, we have given a final warning to Prabhakaran and his terrorist group to surrender to the government forces within 24-hours from 12 noon," said defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella, referring to rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

"Thereafter will be a military course of action. That is the best option," he told reporters at the Air Force battle management centre in Colombo.

Live footage taken from an unmanned aerial vehicle and beamed into the operations centre showed thousands of people thronging around temporary reception centres set up by the army less than a kilometre outside the no-fire zone.

The military said three suicide bombers had attacked thousands of Tamil civilians.

"At least 17 civilians, including women and children, have been killed and 200 people injured from the cowardly suicide attacks," said Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara.

The wall of earth had blocked the widest land link to the coastal strip where Sri Lanka's military has surrounded the Tigers with the goal of crushing them and ending a civil war that has raged since 1983 and is now Asia's longest-running.

"Troops captured the earth bund and so far 5,000 people have been rescued. It is still going on," Nanayakkara earlier said.

The no-fire zone is a 17-square-km (6.5-sq-mile) area of coconut groves, where the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) separatists are fighting their last stand from among tens of thousands of civilians they have held there by force.

The military said Monday's exodus of civilians was the largest in a single day.

An LTTE female suicide bomber in February blew herself up at a refugee reception centre, killing at least 28 people and wounding nearly 100 others. But that has not stopped the exodus of people -- around 70,000 have fled LTTE areas since January.

The Sri Lankan government has been under heavy Western pressure to call a ceasefire to protect people in the no-fire zone. The LTTE has rejected all international calls to let them leave and insists civilians are staying by choice.

Sri Lanka has rejected further calls for a truce after the expiration of a 48-hour pause last week, saying the Tigers only used it to bolster their defences and make it harder for people to escape.

The state-run Daily News said 15,000 people had fled on Monday.

Heading for a global bull phase

20 Apr 2009,

The market rose further last week, with the BSE Sensitive Index finishing 2.03% or 219.23 points higher, and the Nifty 1.27% up. The CNX Midcap Index was the outperformer this time, gaining 4.79%. State Bank was the biggest winner among index stocks with a 14.6% gain.

The other index stocks to go up included ICICI Bank, Bhel, Sun Pharmaceuticals and HDFC with gains falling between 11.0% and 5.3%. Hindalco was the biggest loser among index stocks with a 6.7% loss. The other index stocks to go down included TCS, ONGC, Infosys and Ranbaxy Laboratories with losses falling between 5.0% and 2.2%.

Rolta India was the biggest winner among the more heavily traded non-index stocks with a 32.7% gain. The other non-index stocks to go up included IOB, Unitech, Bajaj Hindusthan, Lanco Infratech, S Kumars Nationwide, Essar Oil and Canara Bank with gains falling between 27.8% and 17.7%.

Akruti City was the biggest loser among the more heavily traded non-index stocks with an 18.5% loss. The other non-index stocks to go down included Ashok Leyland, Aptech, Reliance Industrial Infrastructure, Videocon Industries, Jet Airways, JSW Steel and Mercator Lines with losses falling between 14.3% and 8.3%.


The market remains in the intermediate uptrend which started on March 6 from the Sensitive Index’s low of 8,047. The level below which the uptrend would end are still 9,521 for the Sensitive Index, 2,962 for the Nifty and 3,248 for the CNX Midcap Index. These will be revised upwards to the point where the next minor decline ends. Global markets are also in intermediate uptrends.


The market’s long-term trend is now almost certainly up, with the Sensitive Index and the Nifty climbing out of the range they had been since the end of October. Specifically, the Sensitive Index has risen past 11,000 and the Nifty has cleared 3,250 - these were the upper ends of the sixmonth long range.

The CNX Midcap index is very close to 4,000, the level it needs to cross to enter a major uptrend like the main indices. Once this is done, a bull market would be confirmed.Over 70% of the hotline stocks made 10-week highs or better during this rally, and almost 40% are above their 200-day moving averages.

We are almost certainly in a new bull market, as defined by a rising long-term trend. This is evinced by the fact that the index has risen over 40% since its October bottom of 7,697. However, it is still too early say how much further the market would rise and for how long.

Nifty: Bears sniffing around

20 Apr 2009, ET Bureau

After touching much-talked about gauge of hope, the 200 DMA (daily moving average), the Nifty failed to close above the same. Against average gains of 5% in the past five weeks, the index just managed to end above its last Friday’s close, moving higher by a mere 1%.

Its international peer Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) has not budged much from its previous week’s close, as on Thursday’s close. The question that begs most market participants is whether we are at the peak of a bear market rally or the bottom has been made for good?

Comparing the Dow’s current performance with the great depression days, more trading weeks or even months may be required for the answer to unfold. During the great depression, the Dow topped out at 381 in September 1929 and fell as low as 199 in November , but showed a striking rebound of more than 45% in April 1930. But hold our breadth; this was not a bottom indeed. In the late 1930, the Dow made a new low of 158 and continued to decline further before eventually bottoming out at 41 in July 1932.

Let me make it clear that with this reference, we are not being cynical. But it may be too early to conclude whether the markets have already made a bottom.

200 DMA: A Difficult Territory

The Nifty started the week on a buoyant note and managed to briefly touch 3500 for the first time since October . However, barring Wednesday, it has failed to close above its 200 DMA for two subsequent sessions. As the first chart reveals, the index last moved above this decisive indicator in April 2008. In mid –April last year, it closed above this frontier, but surrendered all its gains within three days and reverted back to its losing streak.

This time around, however, what could save the Nifty from a plunge is the strong support at 3150, which was closer to November and December highs. Meanwhile the gap between the 20 and the 50 DMA is widening. Moreover, even after a more-than-13 % decline on Friday, the volume build-up looks decent. This keeps the hope of a run above this Lakshmanrekha intact.

Economic recovery: Optimism may be short-lived

20 Apr 2009, ET Bureau

Strong growth in capital goods production in Feb '09 overshadowed the 1.2% dip in index of industrial production. It spread the optimism across the market. Few even feel that the IIP has bottomed out and we may soon see a recovery in industrial production led by demand in investment. But it will be too early to conclude a recovery if we consider other macro-economic indicators and the items driving the growth in capital goods sector.

A growth of 10% in capital goods production in Feb '09 was largely on account of strong rise in production of electrical items or related products such as insulated cables and wires, cooling towers, electric generators, protection system and switch boards etc. Acceleration in production of diesel engines was another driver.

In short, it is the continued public and private investment in power sector that is driving the production of capital goods. In contrast in the past, growth was visible across the board. There is, however, a likelihood of slowdown in investment in the power sector due to rising fiscal deficit and increasing cost of capital.

Our skeptical outlook is also supported by a secular slowdown in growth of capital goods in last one year. In past six years the sector's production expanded at high double digits. During April '08 to February '09 however, the growth moderated to 8.8% compared to 17.7% in the corresponding period last year.

And as the chart below shows, IIP is still in on a downward sloping trajectory. Moreover, almost half of the items in capital goods recorded fall in their production. There are other indicators, which points towards a moderation in investment activity.

The growth in investment demanddenominated by fixed capital formationslowed down to 10% in the first three quarters of FY09 against a growth of 14% in the corresponding period of the previous year. Deceleration in import of industrial inputs and lower credit offtake by commercial sector from the banks confirmed this trend.

Imports of industrial inputs moderated to 23.8% during first seven months of FY09 from 31.3% in the comparable period while non- food credit grew 17.5% during FY09, lower than growth of 23% a year ago. Many investment projects have deferred on account of liquidity crunch and lower demand outlook. Going forward, anticipation of lower corporate profitability will further drag down the investment expenditure.

A sustainable revival in industrial output will require a pick-up in the real economy. But so far the enabling environment for investment activity is far from encouraging. The consumption demandboth domestic and external- is expected to be weak in coming months. There was dip in exports for consecutive six months in FY09. The consumption demand, which is a driver of domestic economic growth, is showing signs of fatigue.

For example, auto sales and production of consumer durables continue on a downward spiral. The extent of job losses and salary cuts and high food prices put further pressure on consumption demand. In short, the scenario is going to be tough and even India Inc is also pessimistic about the business environment in coming six months.

The D&B’s Composite Business Optimism Index for the June ’09 quarter fell to a new low of 93.8 recording a decrease of 39% on a year-on-year basis. It was observed that five out of the six optimism indices – volume of sales, net profits, selling prices, new orders, and employee levels — have registered decreases as compared to the previous quarter.
The only optimism index to record a growth of 7% was the level of inventory. The sentiment has been bearish across all the sectors with companies in capital goods and consumer goods the least optimistic.

To conclude we can say a recovery of momentum in growth led by investment is a distant possibility at this time. However, there are some positive factors like gradual reduction in lending rates, some signs of stability in US economy which are raising hopes for turning the trend upside at least by the beginning of later half of FY10.

Top 500 US firms' profits plunge 85% in 2008

20 Apr 2009

WASHINGTON: The top 500 US corporations saw their profits plunge 85 per cent in Top US firms' profits plunge 85% in 2008
2008, their worst showing in more than half a century, Fortune magazine reported on Sunday.

"The sumptuous profits America posted over the past few years weren't part of a new world order, but a bubble that, like the others, went out with a bang. And what a bang," the magazine reported in its latest issue.

"Last year was the worst economic performance in the 55-year history of the Fortune 500 list of America's biggest 500 companies," Fortune said.

"Earnings dropped 84.7 per cent from the previous year, from 645 billion dollars to 98.9 billion dollars, marking the largest one-year decline ever," it said.

"For every dollar in profits the 500 garnered in 2006, its members made 13 cents in 2008."

"The economy's fall was precipitous, leaving companies little time to adjust and pushing the 500 from the summit to something resembling an earnings depression," it said.

Unsurprisingly, the financial and automotive sectors were the worst hit, with the former reporting 214.3 billion dollars in losses, 99.3 billion of which came from one company - battered insurance group AIG.

In Fortune's latest annual listing of the top 500 US companies, energy and oil firms held three of the top four positions, led by ExxonMobil which snagged top spot from retail giant Wal-Mart. The retailer dropped to number two.

Chevron came in third followed by ConocoPhilipps and General Electric.

Automaker General Motors was sixth, despite being on the verge of bankruptcy, followed by Ford in seventh place.

AIG suffered the biggest drop in the standings, falling from 13th to 245th place.

Engineering firm URS was the biggest gainer, from 449th place last year to 264.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Delta no longer sending reservation calls to India

ATLANTA (AP) — Delta Air Lines Inc. no longer is outsourcing reservation calls to India after years of complaints from customers who preferred to speak to someone in the United States.

Chief Executive Richard Anderson told employees in a recorded message late Thursday night that the world's biggest airline operator is in the process of bringing all customer calls back in-house in the U.S.

Customer calls were no longer forwarded to India as of the first quarter of this year, Anderson said. Foreign call centers remain in Jamaica and South Africa, though Anderson indicated that staffing at those locations likely will be reduced in the future as the global financial crisis cuts call volume.

"The customer acceptance of call centers in foreign countries is low, and our customers are not shy about letting us have that feedback," Anderson said.

Difficulty understanding the call center agents in India was a concern among some customers over the years.

Atlanta-based Delta said in 2002 that it would send some reservations work to India to save money. In 2004, amid an earlier bout with hard financial times, Delta shuttered one of its three call centers in India.

At the time, Delta said outsourcing some call center functions had saved Delta about $25 million a year.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, UAL Corp.'s United Airlines outsourced some reservation calls to India. In 2007, Hawaiian Airlines outsourced most of its reservation call center to the Philippines.

A United spokeswoman said Friday that some of the call center work the airline was outsourcing to India has been brought back to the U.S., though some reservation calls are still forwarded there. United also has call center operations in Chicago, Detroit and Hawaii, she said.

India cbank says buys $230 mln in Feb intervention

Apr 17, 2009
India's central bank bought a net $230 million in intervention in February even as the rupee fell to record lows, after selling $29 million in January, its monthly bulletin showed on Friday.

The Reserve Bank of India bought $1.06 billion and sold $833 million in February, becoming a net buyer of dollars for the first month since August.

The partially convertible rupee shed 4.4 percent in February. A sharp fall in the second half of the month took it past 51 per dollar for the first time, on its way to a record low of 52.20 per dollar in early March.

The partially convertible rupee has since recovered to close on Friday at 49.87/88 per dollar, trimming its losses in 2009 to 2.3 percent.

Foreign fund flows have a significant impact on the rupee's fortunes. Foreigners have bought a net of about $730 million of shares so far in April, trimming their net sales in 2009 to about $800 million as shares have rallied strongly.

In 2008, when the rupee fell 19 percent, foreigners were net sellers of more than $13 billion of stocks. In 2007, the rupee rallied more than 12 percent as foreigners were net buyers of more than $17 billion of stocks.

India's foreign exchange reserves have fallen to $253 billion on April 10 from a peak of $316 billion last May, partly reflecting the central bank's intervention to support the rupee.

US law firm open to settle Satyam case out of court

18 Apr 2009,ET Bureau

MUMBAI: US-based law firm Vianale and Vianale, which filed a class action suit on behalf of shareholders of Satyam’s ADR, has said it is open to an out-of-court settlement. The firm has claimed $500 million from Satyam and the former board directors of the company.

Kenneth Vianale said that once the Manhattan Court appoints a lead counsel for the case, it could explore the opportunity of settling the case outside of court, if the management of Satyam was willing. However, a Tech Mahindra official refused to comment stating it was too early to discuss this.

Lawyers are of the opinion that an out of court settlement might be a win-win situation for both parties as Satyam could ease off the legal liabilities against itself, while the ADS holders would not have to fight a long drawn battle.

“The American shareholders know that it may be not advantageous to prolong the case in the court and for Satyam too they would want to wrap up the case as quickly as possible to avoid any uncertainty on the liabilities of the company,” said Vyapak Desai, who leads Litigation and Dispute Resolution Practice at Nishith Desai Associates.

If the company is found guilty of the charges alleged by the US shareholders, the judgement passed by US courts might not be of much significance in India. “It would be very difficult to automatically enforce the US judgement in India as decree passed in India due to lack of reciprocity on enforcement of judgements between India and US,” said Mr. Desai.

While the US law firm maintains that Satyam is still liable to pay for damages, the company’s lawyers say that Satyam’s former board of directors and auditors are accountable for the fraud committed.

“The legal liabilities are complex. They will first fall on the promoters, the original board of directors and the auditors. Tech Mahindra shareholders of the company are not liable for the misdeeds of the promoters,” said Pallavi Shroff, partner at Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A Shroff & Co.

The Company Law Board had on Thursday approved of the selection of Venturbay Consultants Private Limited, a subsidiary controlled by Tech Mahindra as the successful bidder to acquire a 51% controlling stake in the Company for Rs 2889 crore.

On January 7, 2009 Satyam’s promoter and CEO Ramalinga Raju had written to the Satyam Board of directors and Sebi stating that he had overstated Satyam’s financial accounts.

According to the letter, Raju admitted to having inflated the amount of cash on the company’s balance sheet by nearly $1 billion, incurring liability of $253 million on funds arranged by him personally and overstating Satyam’s September 2008 quarterly revenues by 76% and profits by 97%