Sensex sheds 21 points, ends at 17,098

Rising inflation pulled down Indian markets, while Asian markets remained positive after news reports of Dubai’s bailout package

Indian markets slipped on fears that recovery in the economy and a surge in the wholesale price inflation index may add pressure on the central bank to raise interest rates. The Sensex declined 21 points from Friday’s (11 December 2009) close, ending the day at 17,098. The Nifty closed at 5,106, down 12 points.

During the day, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) remained flat on reports that the company would take a call on submitting a final bid for bankrupt Dutch petrochemical company LyondellBasell (LB). The company is now concerned about LB’s high debt, with the company’s lenders having hiked interest rates to about 12%.

Bajaj Auto rose 3% after a leading foreign broker raised its rating on the stock to ‘buy’ from ‘neutral’, saying that demand for two-wheelers was growing. Bajaj Auto will reportedly stop producing scooters by March 2010 to focus on motorcycles.

Western India Shipyard rose 5%, after the company bagged an order worth Rs5 crore for the repair of a deepwater oil rig named JUR Noble Ed Holt.

Chambal Fertilizers & Chemicals’ step-down subsidiary ISGN Solutions Inc based in the US has completed the acquisition of Fiserv Fulfillment Services of Pennsylvania on 12 December 2009. The stock was down 1%.

ACC was up 5% on reports that the company’s cement plant in Thondebhavi, Karnataka, was inaugurated on Saturday, 12 December 2009. ACC Thondebhavi Cement Works was set up as a greenfield project.

During trading hours, trade minister Anand Sharma said that rising wholesale prices were a matter of concern and the government is monitoring prices of essential commodities. As per data released by the government, inflation based on the wholesale price index (WPI) surged 4.78% from the previous month’s annual rise of 1.34%. The food article index within the wholesale price index rose 16.71% in November 2009. The manufacturing products index in the WPI rose an annual 3.99%. In its October policy review, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had raised its WPI inflation projection for end-March 2010 to 6.5% with an upside bias, from 5% earlier.

On Sunday, 13 December 2009, the chairman of the empowered committee of state finance ministers Asim Dasgupta said that the goods and services tax (GST) regime would have four slabs and it is likely to be unveiled within 15 days. GST slabs would include exempted items list, one standard rate for majority of the goods and services and another having a moderate rate, he said. The implementation of GST is scheduled for 1 April 2010. However, there are doubts prevailing at various quarters on whether the new tax regime would come into effect at the targeted date because of differences of opinion over the rates among States and the items to be included under GST. The Committee had released a discussion paper on GST on 10 November 2009. It proposes to replace Central levies like excise duty, service tax, special additional duty and countervailing duty by GST. State levies like VAT, sales tax and entry tax would also be subsumed. Besides all this, Central and State cesses and surcharges would also be out once GST comes into effect.

Meanwhile, the RBI has reportedly expressed its concerns over many investment companies with a low capital base raising disproportionately high funds. As per the current norms, corporate investment firms, which hold strategic stakes of group companies, are exempt from following the stringent norms applicable to NBFCs. The RBI may impose regulatory restrictions on such investment arms having high leverage as a measure to limit the aggressive borrowing by corporate houses. Currently, the RBI is reported to be in discussions with some corporate groups on this issue.

During the day, Asia’s key benchmark indices in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore rose by between 0.31%-1.71% after Dubai said that it had received $10 billion from Abu Dhabi to help it repay $4.1 billion to meet its liabilities towards a maturing Islamic bond. However, in Japan and Indonesia, key indices were down by between 0.02%-0.72%.

Dubai said that it had received $10 billion from fellow UAE emirate Abu Dhabi to help it repay $4.1 billion in Islamic bonds maturing on Monday. The statement said the excess amount would be used to cater to Dubai World’s needs, until the end of April 2010. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saaed al-Maktoum said in a statement that Dubai wanted to reassure investors, financial & trade creditors, employees and citizens that its government would act at all times in accordance with market principles and internationally accepted business practices. He also said that Dubai is—and will continue to be—a strong and vibrant global financial centre and that the emirate’s best days were yet to come. The statement also said that the United Arab Emirates’ Central Bank, which governs monetary policy in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other UAE constituents, is also prepared to provide support to local UAE banks.
On Friday, 11 December 2009, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 66 points while the S&P 500 was up 4 points while the Nasdaq Composite was down 1%.

The US Federal Reserve is expected to maintain its pledge to keep US interest rates close to zero for “an extended period” after chairman Ben Bernanke warned that US economic recovery still faced “formidable headwinds”, such as tight credit conditions and rising unemployment. Mr Bernanke’s re-appointment as chairman of the Federal Reserve by the Senate banking committee is expected on Thursday.

US industrial production during November, the figures for which are due on Tuesday, is expected to rise 0.5%. This would slow the year-on-year decline from (-) 7.1% in October to (-) 5.4%. US producer prices are expected to show the headline measure returning to positive territory for the first time in a year, with the year-on-year rate rising from (-) 1.9% in October to a rise of 1.6%. US consumer price inflation is also likely to move into positive territory for the first time since February 2009, with the headline measure expected to rise from (-) 0.2% in October to a rise of 1.8%. Core inflation, though, remains low and could sink below 1% next year following a sharp slowdown in labour costs.

In premarket trading, the Dow was trading 56 points higher.


Container volumes go up, freight rates still under pressure

Domestic and global shipping companies expect growth in volumes for the container segment. However, they are less bullish on growth in freight rates

The container segment has witnessed a revival in trade volumes. However, it continues to remain under pressure in terms of freight rates. This phenomenon of volume growth coupled with pressure on freight rates is evident both in the domestic and global shipping markets.

Singapore's Neptune Orient Lines—the world’s fight-largest shipping company—has announced that it carried 23% more cargo in the four weeks to 13th November over the year-ago period. The shipping line stated that it had carried the equivalent of 2,08,000 40-foot containers (FEUs) on its ships, up from 1,69,700 FEUs a year earlier.

Eivind Kolding, the chief executive of Maersk Line’s container unit told certain sections of the media that container volumes are likely to grow between 3% and 8% in 2010. Mr Kolding has been quoted as saying that the “trends are pointing the right way." Maersk Line is the world’s largest container shipping line.

A similar growth picture is being witnessed closer home in India. S Hajara, chairman and managing director, Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) said, “With the economy having bottomed out, growth prospects appear good. Container (traffic) caters to the cargo trade. If the economy improves, international trade will improve and thus container demand will go up.”

SS Kulkarni, secretary, Indian National Shipowners’ Association (INSA) shares a similar view. “There has been an increase across all segments, but it (the increase) is very modest. If you see the growth on a year-on-year (y-o-y) basis, in the last two years it was almost ranging in double digits to 18%. That growth has slowed down considerably. In India, there is growth, unlike in other countries, where the trend is negative.”

As per latest reports, cargo at major ports increased by 13% y-o-y in November 2009. The cargo traffic for November 2009 was 48.2 million tonnes (MT) compared to 42.5MT for the same period last year. Cargo traffic for November 2009 also grew by 3.4% month-on-month (m-o-m), on the back of a 9.8% m-o-m growth for October 2009. In October 2009, cargo movement at major ports was up by 10% y-o-y, translating into 46.7MT compared to 42.2MT for the same period a year ago. Container traffic also increased by 13.4% y-o-y in November 2009.

Though the container segment has seen a surge in volumes, freight rates are going down. The average revenue per FEU for Neptune Orient Lines was down 28% from a year ago at $2,239/FEU.

“As far as container shipping is concerned, it will continue to be under pressure in terms of rates because there will be a lot of supply pressure in 2010,” added Mr Hajara.

On being questioned on whether the growth in container volumes could be a temporary phenomenon, Mr Hajara said, “As far as volumes are concerned, there is no reason why they should go down. I expect volumes to increase, but rates will continue to be under pressure.”


Inflation trebles to 4.78%; RBI may squeeze money supply

The monthly data, released by the government for the second time, shows that potato prices have surged by a whopping 141% over the past eight months, followed by sugar (37%), pulses (32%) and onion prices have zoomed 20%

India's inflation more than trebled to 4.78% during November on account of rising prices of food items like potato, sugar and pulses, and may prompt the central bank to squeeze money supply to tame price rise, reports PTI.

According to the monthly inflation data released on Monday, the wholesale price-based inflation jumped to nearly 5% from 1.34% in October.

Attributing rising prices to supply-side constraints, Suresh Tendulkar, former chairman of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC), said the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) could take steps to withdraw liquidity to tame rising prices. The apex bank is slated to announce review of its annual credit policy next month.

Food inflation, according to the weekly data announced earlier, had shot up by 19.04% during November, recording the sharpest increase in the decade.

The monthly data, which was released by the government for the second time, shows that potato prices have surged by a whopping 141% during the past eight months, followed by sugar (37%), pulses (32%) and onion prices have zoomed 20%. On the other hand, minerals, edible oils and leather products have become cheaper since March 2009.

The RBI in its monetary policy review in October had revised the inflation forecast to 6.5% by March-end from 5% earlier.

International raw material prices are rising so domestic prices are also seeing a movement upward, Mr Tendulkar said, adding that the government needs to manage supply shortages.

"The RBI may withdraw the liquidity in terms of statutory liquidity ratio (SLR) movement but I don't see any rate changes being done, not till the next quarterly review in January," he said.

The central bank has been increasing money supply for industry to tide over the global financial crisis.

The rising prices are an issue of concern for the government as a worried Congress president Sonia Gandhi had earlier said during the week that “price rise of essential commodities continues to be a matter of highest concern to us.”

Among manufactured products, textiles rose by 1.4%, paper and paper products by 0.1%, while chemical and chemical product prices increased by 0.1%.

Commenting on the price rise, Yes Bank's chief economist Suhubhda Rao said, "A sharper rise in manufacturing clearly indicates that the pricing power is gradually returning as the broad group within manufacturing products have registered month-on-month increase in the index numbers."

Ms Rao added that firming inflation will be on the RBI’s radar where the CRR could be hiked in December by 25-50 basis points.



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