Stocks
Nifty, Sensex may remain listless – Weekly closing report
Nifty will head higher if it closes above 7,900
 
We had mentioned in last week’s closing report that Indian benchmark, the National Stock Exchange (NSE)’s Nifty, and BSE Sensex may head higher and that as long as the 50-stock Nifty stays above 7,650, the uptrend may continue. The major indices in the Indian stock markets ended higher the week ended on 24th December 2015. During the week, major indices have made small gains. The trends of the indices over the week’s trading are given in the table below:
 
 
The bellwether indices of the Indian equity markets opened Monday on a weak note in sync with their Asian peers and last Friday's slump. However, both Nifty and Sensex soon rose and closed with small gains. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday tabled in the Lok Sabha the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Bill, 2015, proposing to enact a single bankruptcy code setting deadlines for processing insolvency cases. Jaitley had announced this on previous Saturday, saying the government intends to bring important legislative measures on structural reforms during the remaining three days left of parliament's winter session, notwithstanding the setback on the GST Bill. The proposed law aims to reduce delays in resolution of insolvency cases and improve recoveries of amount lent to companies. The draft bill has proposed a timeline of 180 days, extendable by another 90 days, to resolve cases of bankruptcy. The new bankruptcy code will help India in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business ranking. Shares of Sun Pharma slumped over 7% intraday on Monday as investors grow cautious about a warning letter for its Halol manufacturing unit. The stock closed at Rs754.45, down 4.55%.
 
The Indian equity markets were subdued on Tuesday mainly because of political turmoil and the major indices closed lower by upto 0.62%. The indices opened on a flat note. However, after 2pm they soon ceded their gains, as profit bookings, parliamentary logjam and upcoming US macro-data subdued sentiments. Industrialist Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications (RCOM) on Tuesday said it had initiated talks with the promoters of Aircel to combine the wireless business of the two companies, with synergies in investments and returns. A pact for 90-day exclusive talks has been initiated with Aircel's majority owner, Malaysia's Maxis Communications, and Sindya Securities and Investments for the potential merger, RCOM said in a statement. Last month, RCOM entered into a pact to acquire the Indian business of Russia's Sistema, which operates under the 'MTS' brand, in a unique stock-cum-spectrum-fee payment deal. RCOM shares closed at Rs85.70, up 2.39% on the BSE.
 
Due to optimism in global stock markets and improvement in the political situation in India, the major indices in the Indian stock markets closed in the green on Wednesday with gains of just over 1% over Tuesday’s close. Positive global cues, coupled with the government's efforts to build consensus on the bankruptcy bill, cheered the Indian equity markets. Shares of Tata Steel gained 3% intraday on Wednesday after the company’s subsidiary entered fresh negotiations to sell long products division in Europe. The move will allow partial deleveraging of the balance sheet and enhance profitability. Shares of Sun Pharma rallied for a second day on Wednesday, after it lost almost 7% on Monday following a warning letter by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Halol manufacturing unit. The drug major rose on Wednesday after analysts found no serious compliance breach in the warning letter. On 22nd December, the USFDA made public the warning letter, which states that inspection 483 mentioned 23 observations. Out of the 23 observations, 10 were related to the injectables facility, 4 were on the oral solids facility, 8 were related to quality control labs and 1 was on warehousing. In its letter, the drug regulator said that Sun Pharma failed to establish and follow appropriate written procedures and all lapses are examples of serious current good manufacturing practice (cGMP) violations. It also added that the company's responsibility to ensure third party audit includes full evaluation of systems, operations and procedures. Sun Pharma shares closed at Rs791.05, up 3.52% on the BSE on Wednesday.
 
The Indian insurance regulator has the power to direct any general/health/reinsurer to get listed in a stock exchange if the situation warrants, as per the IRDAI (Issuance of Capital by Indian Insurance Companies transacting other than Life Insurance Business) Regulations, 2015. The regulations gazetted on December 15, 2015 were uploaded on Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India's (IRDAI) website on Wednesday.
 
Latest data with the stock exchanges showed that the volumes in cash markets across key bellwether indices eased to the Rs16,000 crore in the last couple of trading sessions from a robust Rs20,000 crore levels seen last week. Profit booking, coupled with the ongoing political turmoil and delay in the passage of a key economic legislation subdued Indian equity markets on Thursday. Thursday’s trading fell into the pattern of alternate uptrend and downtrend in the major indices ending in small gains over the week’s trading. Thursday’s trading, in particular, was range-bound with the indices closing with marginal losses. The government's inability to get the crucial GST (Goods and Services Tax) bill passed during the winter session of parliament continued to eroded investors' confidence. Besides, investors were cautious regarding the third quarter earnings season. The listless trading is likely to improve from 4th January onwards after the holidays end and the foreign institutional investors come back to the market.

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Why Free Basics from Facebook is definitely not free Internet
Facebook, after facing criticism with its Internet.org, is again trying to lure mobile users from India with its Free Basics through its huge media campaign and trick to send automatic support email to TRAI
 
Over the past few weeks, there are full-blown multi-page advertisements in newspapers and hoardings about Facebook’s Free Basics. Unfortunately, if you felt that the Free Basics means free internet for connecting the ones who cannot afford net access in India, you are mistaken. In reality, it merely means breaking the fabric of the Internet: non-gated and open access.
 
Remember, Internet.org and the net neutrality issues that rocked earlier part of this year? Through Internet.org, the same Facebook along with some telecom operators was promising free access to sites and carrier they chose under the guise of digital inclusion. After a hue and cry, Internet.org took a backseat. But it looks like the same is being brought back as Free Basics by Facebook.   
 
With Free Basics, Facebook is trying to be the regulator who decides which website or app will be part of it. Only the website or apps, which Facebook decides to be part of Free Basics, will be available as Internet to users. This is completely opposite to how the Internet was created and exists today. The internet has grown by leaps and bounds because it has remained agnostic to the media and content consumed by its customers across the network. This unique property of the internet was first described by Prof Tim Wu as net-neutrality. Both Internet.org and Free Basics have same motive, to limit the access to internet under the guise of ‘free’ label. 
 
At that time, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, too urged people to oppose Internet.org from Facebook. Berners-Lee also warned about attempts to improve internet access around the world by offering cut-down versions of the web, such as Facebook’s Internet.org project. Users should “just say no” to such proposals, he was quoted in The Guardian.
 
India is currently Facebook’s second-biggest market after the US with 130 million users, and many net neutrality advocates believe that its campaign is another example of how the company is misusing its size and influence to form the opinions of Internet users in emerging economies, says a report from TechCrunch. “Free Basics, which became available throughout India last month, is a program by Facebook initiative Internet.org to provide basic Internet services, like search, Wikipedia, health information, and weather updates, for free to all users. While it sounds altruistic, Free Basics has the potential to drive reams of traffic to sites from certain providers (including Facebook) at the expense of others, which violates the principles of net neutrality. The TRAI plans to hold a public hearing on net neutrality next month,” the report says. 
 
Facebook motives are foggy 
If the real motive is to get many users in India to use the Internet, then there are a few questions that beg to be answered. 
  1.  Why only Facebook and a few other websites/ apps would be accessible and why not the entire internet? 
  2.  Why Facebook and the operators are acting as the regulator and would be deciding as to who is part of Free Basics and who isn't?
  3.  What is the guarantee that they would not act to the detriment of others? 
 
Desperate Attempts to lure users
Mobile users in India, who would have logged into their Facebook account during the past one week, may have seen a notification message “Act Now to Save Free Basics in India”. By asking users submit this form, the response is then sent to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). Several users reported on Twitter that despite that they did not submit the form and were merely scrolling the content, a confirmation of their support towards Free Basics was sent automatically. Moreover, there is no way to change the response sent by Facebook to TRAI. 
 
It also came to light that several users based outside India, primarily in the US reported seeing the notification message to support Free Basics. Facebook later responded to the website Recode that it was by accident. 
 
It appears strategically, Facebook’s propaganda is to persuade users in India to push for Free Basics by portraying altruistic motives and in return, gain user base in India who are not using the Internet yet. 
 
TRAI tells Reliance Communication to put Free Basics on hold
Following directions from TRAI, Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications (RCOM) has decided to put on hold the commercial launch of Free Basics. "As directed by TRAI, the commercial launch of Free Basics has been kept in abeyance, till they consider all details and convey a specific approval," a Reliance Communications spokesperson said. RCOM is the only telecom service provider offering Free Basics in India.
 
According to advertisements in the media, "Free Basics by Facebook is a first step to connecting one billion Indians to jobs, education, and opportunities online, and ultimately a better future. But Free Basics is at risk of being banned, slowing progress towards digital equality in India." Also, it is not clear as to how multi-page advertisements in The Economic Times help Free Basics reach the poorest sections of the Indian population.
 

You may also want to read...
What Facebook won’t tell you or The top 10 facts about free basics

(Courtesy: SavetheInternet.in)

 

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25 die in Saudi hospital fire
At least 25 people were killed and 107 injured on Thursday as a horrific fire engulfed parts of a hospital in Saudi Arabia's Jizan city, media reports said.
 
The Saudi civil defence directorate said the blaze broke out at the Jizan General Hospital at about 2.30 a.m., Al Jazeera reported.
 
The disaster occurred in the intensive care unit and the maternity ward on the first floor of the hospital, Xinhua news agency added.
 
At least 20 fire engines battled the blaze. Other patients were rushed to a number of nearby public and private hospitals.
 
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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