India’s industrial output slows down in June

Jul 31, 2017 0

New Delhi– Production in India’s eight major industries slowed down during June, as the total output rose only by 0.4 per cent as against an increase of 4.1 per cent in May 2017, official data showed on Monday.

The Eight Core Industries (ECI) data, which represents the output of major industrial sectors like coal, steel, cement and electricity, grew by seven per cent in the corresponding month of 2016.

“The combined index of ECI stands at 121 in June 2017, which was 0.4 per cent higher compared to the index of June 2016,” the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said in the summary report for the index of ECI.

“Its cumulative growth during April to June, 2017-18, was 2.4 per cent.”

The ECI index comprises 40.27 per cent weightage of the Index of Industrial Production (IIP).

On a sector-specific basis, refinery production, which has the highest weightage of 28.03 per cent, slipped by 0.2 per cent in June 2017 as compared with the corresponding month of last year.

However, electricity generation, which has the second highest weightage of 19.85 per, rose by 0.7 per cent last month.

Steel production, the third most important component with weightage of 17.92 per cent, increased by 5.8 per cent during the month under review. Conversely, coal mining, with a 10.33 per cent weightage, decreased by 6.7 per cent in June 2017.

Extraction of crude oil, which has an 8.98 per cent weightage, inched up by 0.6 per cent during the month under consideration.

On the other hand, the sub-index for natural gas output, with a weightage of 6.88 per cent stood higher by 6.4 per cent.

Besides, cement production, which has the weightage of 5.37 per cent, decreased by 5.8 per cent in June 2017.

In contrast, fertiliser manufacturing, which has the least weightage of only 2.63 per cent, decreased by 3.6 per cent. (IANS)

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SBI cuts savings deposit rate by 50 basis points to 3.5 percent

Jul 31, 2017 0

Mumbai– The State Bank of India (SBI) on Monday announced a 50 basis points (bps) cut in the interest rates for savings accounts having deposits below Rs 1 crore, effective immediately.

The revised interest rate for savings accounts having up to Rs 1 crore deposit now stands at 3.5 per cent while those having above Rs 1 crore balance in their savings accounts will continue to enjoy the 4 per cent interest rate.

“The bank is introducing a two-tier saving bank interest rate with effect from July 31, 2017. While balance above Rs 1 crore will continue to earn interest at 4 per cent per annum, interest at 3.5 per cent per annum shall be offered on balances of Rs 1 crore and below,” the largest public lender said in a BSE filing.

“The decline in the rate of inflation and high real interest rates are the primary considerations warranting a revision in the rate of interest on savings bank deposits,” SBI said.

SBI Managing Director Rajnish Kumar said that 90 per cent of the total savings accounts held by the bank have balance below Rs 1 crore.

He said the cut in interest rates was not likely to affect the number of savings accounts with the bank or its current and savings account (CASA) ratio.

“It is the convenience, safety, trust which is still in the bank’s favour. We are not anticipating any major impact on the CASA ratio or saving accounts,” he said.

SBI had maintained the 3.5 per cent interest rates for its savings accounts from 2003-11. In 2011, it was increased to 4 per cent for all saving deposit accounts.

Kumar said the rate cut had nothing to do with the impending Reserve Bank of India (RBI) monetary policy on August 2.

Further, the bank had cut the marginal cost based lending rates (MCLR) by 90 bps effective from January 1, on the strength of large inflows in savings and current accounts during the demonetisation period in the month of November and December 2016.

“There has been a significant outflow of CASA deposits since then. The revision in saving bank rate would enable the bank to maintain the MCLR at the existing rates, benefiting a large segment of retail borrowers in Small and Medium enterprise (SME), agriculture and affordable housing segments,” it said. (IANS)

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Income Tax filing deadline in India extended till Aug 5

Jul 31, 2017 0

New Delhi–The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) on Monday extended the deadline for income tax return filing for 2016-17 till August 5.

“In view of the difficulties faced by taxpayers, date for filing of Income Tax Returns for 2016-17 has been extended to August 5,” the Income-Tax department tweeted.

The decision was announced on Monday, the last date for filing ITR.

The department was receiving complaints that a number of taxpayers were not able to log on to the e-filing portal due to excess rush on the last day.

The extension also comes in view of difficulties faced by taxpayers as the quoting of Aadhaar was made mandatory for ITR filing from July 1.

Quoting of Aadhaar was made mandatory for filing income tax returns, as introduced by the Finance Act, 2017.

Aadhaar is now also compulsory for making an application for allotment of Permanent Account Number (PAN).

Section 139AA of the Income-tax Act, 1961 as introduced by the Finance Act, 2017 provides for mandatory quoting of Aadhaar/Enrolment ID of Aadhaar application form, for filing of return of income and for making an application for allotment of Permanent Account Number with effect from July 1.

Mandatory quoting of Aadhaar or Enrolment ID will apply only to a person who is eligible to obtain Aadhaar number.

As per the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016, only a resident individual is entitled to obtain Aadhaar. Resident as per the said Act means an individual who has resided in India for a period or periods amounting in all to 182 days or more in the 12 months immediately preceding the date of application for enrolment.

Accordingly, the requirement to quote Aadhaar as per section 139AA of the Income tax Act shall not apply to an individual who is not a resident as per the Aadhaar Act, 2016. (IANS)

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RBI needs to cut interest rate by 25 basis points: Assocham

Jul 30, 2017 0

New Delhi–Ahead of the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) forthcoming monetary policy review next week, industry chamber Assocham has on Sunday urged the apex bank to cut interest rates in view of latest data that shows inflation at a five-year low and deceleration in the factory output.

“Citing inflation at a five-year low and deceleration in the factory output, the Assocham has written to RBI Governor Urjit Patel, making out a strong case for at least 25 basis point cut in the policy interest rate when the RBI Monetary Policy Committee meets on August 2,” an Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) said here.

“After a long duration of consistency in the repo rate, Assocham believes that the RBI could reduce the policy rate,” chamber Secretary General D.S. Rawat said in his letter to the RBI Governor.

Retail inflation in India during June dropped to a record low of 1.54 per cent, while industrial production data showed that the growth in factory production fell to 1.7 per cent in May, from 8 per cent in the same month a year ago.

“The wholesale price index (WPI) also eased to 0.9 per cent from 2.17 per cent. The case for rate-cut is additionally strengthened by easing of food inflation to (minus)-2.12 per cent from 0.31 per cent. Good monsoon forecasts for the current financial year have additionally created a stance for further reduction in the food inflation,” Assocham said.

At its second bi-monthly monetary policy review of the fiscal on June 7, the RBI maintained status quo on its repo, or short-term rate for lending to commercial banks, at 6.25 per cent.

In doing so, the policy statement said the six-member Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) was guided by the risks to inflation. It was the fourth policy review in succession that the MPC had kept the repo rate unchanged.

Since the MPC started setting rates in October last year, this was the first time it did not take a unanimous decision, with five members voting in favour of holding the rate and one opposing. (IANS)

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India, Russia likely to ink deal for more Mi-17 V5 choppers this year

Jul 30, 2017 0

By Anjali Ojha

Moscow–India and Russia hope to conclude a contract to purchase an additional 48 Mi-17 V5 medium lift helicopters by the end of this year, an official here said.

Aleksandr Mikheev, CEO of Rosoboronexport, the state agency for exporting defence equipment from Russia, said price negotiations are to start by August.

“We are holding negotiations with a view to sign a contract for 48 Mi-17 V5 helicopters. In July-August, we are starting price and contract negotiations within the framework of the applicable Indian procedure and we hope that we will reach agreement before the end of this year,” Mikheev told this visiting IANS correspondent.

“Our Indian partners know the programme very well. They have more than 300 helicopters belonging to the Mi-8 and Mi-17 family,” he added.

India at present has more than 150 Mi-17 V5 helicopters, the last of which were delivered in January 2016. Most of the Mi-8s have, however, been phased out while some of the Mi-17s are still flying.

The Mi-17 V5 is based on the Mi-8 airframe and is one of the most advanced aircraft of the Mi-8/17 family.

The helicopters are equipped with night vision technology, all-weather radar, a new PKV-8 autopilot system and a KNEI-8 avionics suite.

The sturdy choppers have been the mainstay of the Indian Air Force in a number of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

The choppers were also deployed during the 2008 Mumbai terror attack when it enabled commandos of the National Security Guard to rapel down to the Chabad House in Colaba where a few of the attackers were holed up. They are also said to have been pressed into service during the surgical strikes carried out on Pakistani terror launch pads across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir in September 2016.

The chopper’s TV3-117BM turboshaft engines are rated at 1,900 hp each, giving it a greater service and hovering ceiling, and have proved efficient in the tough mountain terrain of the Himalayas.

Mikheev added that India and Russia are also discussing the modernisation of the Sukhoi SU-30MKI fighters.

“During a period of 15 years, we have fulfilled all our obligations to the Indian party, the HAL. We have supplied about 200 aircraft under the licence agreement and are offering the new developments of our design bureaus,” Mikheev said.

“Moreover, the Indian Air Force has some requirements for improvement of performance and operational characteristics, mainly with regard to avionics and electronic warfare systems, as well as updates of weapon systems by both Indian and Russian companies,” he added.

Asked about the S-400 Triumf long range air defence missile system, a contract for which was signed during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India last year, Mikheev said negotiations were on.

“As of today, we are carrying out technical consultations with the Indian party. We have already shown our equipment in both the field-testing, range-practice conditions,” he said.

“Rosoboronexport is performing all the work aimed at signing of the contract as soon as possible, based on the feedback from the Indian party,” he said, adding: “I’d like to note that today the Indian party does not have any such systems as the S-400.”

The deal is estimated to be worth over $5-billion (over Rs 32,000 crore).

The missile system, which has been deployed in Syria, where Russia is targeting the Islamic State, can destroy incoming hostile aircraft, missiles and even drones at ranges of up to 400 km and will prove to be a game changer for India, experts said. (IANS)

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As medical tourism booms, India sees 127,000 more foreign patients in 2016

Jul 26, 2017 0

New Delhi– India saw an increase of 127,142 foreign patients during 2016 as compared with 2015, Minister of State for Tourism and Culture Mahesh Sharma revealed on Wednesday.

In a written reply to the Rajya Sabha, Sharma said that in 2014 India saw 184,298 foreign patients while 233,918 came in 2015 and 361,060 arrived in 2016 for medical tourism.

“Ministry of Tourism has released guidelines for promotion of medical and wellness tourism as Niche Tourism Product.”

“As per the guidelines, the ministry offers financial support to accredited Medical and Wellness Tourism Service Providers, chambers of commerce and other organisations as marketing development assistance,” said Sharma.

He said that tourism products, including medical and wellness tourism, are mostly driven by the private sector and costs of such services are determined by market forces.

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Cabinet nod to labor code on wages

Jul 26, 2017 0

New Delhi–The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Wednesday approved a new wage code bill that which will amalgamate and simplify provisions of four labour related laws, sources said.

The Labour Code on Wages Bill would amalgamate Minimum Wages Act, 1948, the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 and the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, they said.

The Second National Commission on Labour had recommended that the existing labour laws should be broadly grouped into four or five Labour Codes on functional basis.

The Labour Ministry has taken steps for drafting four Labour Codes – on wages, industrial relations, social security and welfare and safety and working conditions by simplifying, amalgamating and rationalising the relevant provisions of the existing central labour laws.

The Labour Code on Wages bill is likely to be introduced in the ongoing monsoon session of parliament. (IANS)

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Nifty closes above 10k for first time, equity markets at new peak

Jul 26, 2017 0

Mumbai– Boosted by positive global cues, along with expectations of healthy quarterly results and intense buying activities witnessed in metal, banking and automobile stocks, the Indian equity markets on Wednesday surged to a record high, with the benchmark index NSE Nifty50 closing firmly above the 10,000-point mark for the first time.

On Tuesday, the wider Nifty50 of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) climbed the 10,000-point peak for the first time in its almost 22-year history, but soon ceded its gains to close on a flat note on the back of profit booking and expensive valuations, after touching an intra-day high of 10,011.30 points.

However, the key index surpassed even that level and scaled a record intra-day high of 10,025.95 points on Wednesday before closing at 10,020.65 points.

The other benchmark index — BSE Sensex — too, touched a fresh high of 32,413.63 points intra-day.

According to market observers, some cautiousness prevailed in the global markets ahead of the outcome of the two-day US Federal Open Market Committee meet later in the evening.

At closing time, the NSE Nifty50 rose by 56.10 points or 0.56 per cent to close at a new high of 10,020.65 points.

The 30-scrip Sensitive Index (Sensex) closed at a fresh high of 32,382.46 points — up 154.19 points or 0.48 per cent — from its previous close at 32,228.27 points.

The BSE market breadth was, however, slightly bearish with 1,365 declines and 1,324 advances.

In terms of the broader markets, the BSE mid-cap index rose by 0.18 per cent and the small-cap index by 0.28 per cent.

“Markets rallied to new life highs on Wednesday with the Nifty closing above the 10,000-level for the first time. The main indices opened the session with small gains amid initial volatility, which later hovered in green with small-to-modest gains. They extended intra-day gains towards late trade to hit fresh record highs,” Deepak Jasani, Head of Retail Research, HDFC Securities, told IANS.

“Globally, investors awaited the outcome of a two-day US Federal Reserve’s policy meeting scheduled later today (July 26). Markets will be watching for any signals about another possible rise in the benchmark lending rate in 2017, and on when the Fed will begin winding down its multi-trillion-dollar investment holdings,” Desai added.

On the currency front, the rupee strengthened by 2-3 paise to 64.36 to a US dollar from its previous close at 64.38-39.

In investments, provisional data with the exchanges showed that foreign institutional investors (FIIs) sold scrips worth Rs 60.60 crore, while domestic institutional investors (DIIs) purchased stocks worth Rs 676.61 crore.

According to Dhruv Desai, Director and Chief Operating Officer of Tradebulls, the benchmark index Nifty reclaimed the 10,000-milestone led mainly by gains in metal stocks.

“Expectations of a better earnings season with improving economic indicators have increased investor confidence, extending a record-setting rally this year, although high valuations are seen capping gains in the near term,” Desai told IANS.

“The Nifty has hit a string of record highs this year and is Asia’s third best-performing index this year with a 22 per cent gain.”

Sector-wise, the S&P BSE metal index rose by 213.57 points, the banking index by 204.83 points, and the capital goods index by 156.48 points.

On the other hand, the S&P BSE Teck index slipped by 22.11 points, the IT index by 20.68 points and the telecom index by 5.79 points.

Major Sensex gainers on Wednesday were: Tata Steel, up 2.22 per cent at Rs 565.40; Sun Pharma, up 2.08 per cent at Rs 578.45; ICICI Bank, up 2.07 per cent at Rs 310.20; Mahindra and Mahindra, up 1.94 per cent at Rs 1,417; and Cipla, up 1.82 per cent at Rs 574.80.

Major Sensex losers were: Axis Bank, down 2.90 per cent at Rs 528.85; Asian Paints, down 1.43 per cent at Rs 1,135.50; Tata Consultancy Services, down 0.62 per cent at Rs 2,554.80; Bharti Airtel, down 0.32 per cent at Rs 426.25; and Bajaj Auto, down 0.24 per cent at Rs 2,838. (IANS)

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$23 billion investment planned in Krishna Godavari Basin oil, gas fields

Jul 24, 2017 0

New Delhi– Oil and gas fields in the Krishna Godavari (KG) Basin in India’s eastern offshore would attract investment of about $23 billion for these hydrocarbons’ exploitation, Parliament was informed on Monday.

“The operators of blocks/fields in KG basin under Production Sharing Contract (PSC) regime and nomination fields have submitted DoC (Declaration of Commerciality)/FDP (Field Development Plans) for the commercial oil and gas discoveries along with projected investment estimates,” Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan told the Lok Sabha in a written reply, adding that the estimated investment from various stakeholders was $22.9 billion.

The new oil and gas production from these fields in the KG Basin is expected to reach up to 22.27 billion cubic meters of gas, and 4.68 million metric tonnes of oil by 2021-22, he said.

Last month, Reliance Industries and British major, BP, annnouced the creation of a joint venture energy vertical to work across the entire value chain, involving investment of $6 billion, or Rs 40,000 crore. This would also develop their existing deep water gas fields in India’s eastern offshore to bring to fresh production 1 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas by 2022.

Pradhan also informed the Lok Sabha on Monday that the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs had given in-principle approval for sale of the government’s 51.11 per cent stake along with the management control of oil marketer HPCL to the exploration firm ONGC.

Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) will continue as a public sector undertaking after Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd (ONGC) acquires its stake, he said.

“The proposed acquisition in the oil sector will create a vertically integrated public sector oil major company having presence across the entire value chain.

“This will give ONGC an enhanced capacity to bear higher risks, take higher investment decisions and to neutralise impact of global crude oil price volatility,” he said.(IANS)

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India should target inflation rate of 4-5 percent: US expert

Jul 24, 2017 0

New Delhi–Indian policymakers would do well to target keeping annual retail inflation in the country in the range of 4-5 per cent without aiming to lower this rate significantly, according to an American expert.

“India should target inflation at 4-5 per cent,” Kenneth Rogoff, Professor of Economics at Harvard University in the US told BTVi in an interview.

“Many people in the advanced economies are saying we should have been at 4 per cent (inflation rate), and not be at 2 per cent, which was a mistake. There is a debate on,” he said referring to the prolonged phase of low inflation coupled with low growth being experienced by Western economies.

“I think that if a lot of countries were starting from scratch, I bet they would opt for a 3 per cent target,” he added.

Noting “there is no rush to come down to a lower inflation target, the American economist said it is “predictability” that is important in keeping down inflationary expectations.

“In economic theory, which who knows if its true…historically it has been seen that if you are predictable, that’s what people expect. People can adjust to any steady inflation rate,” Rogoff said.

“There are number of reasons for India, not to bring it (inflation) down too quickly,” he added. (IANS)

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