Share prices still in an undecided zone: Thursday Closing Report

The situation of one day up and the next day down is continuing. A big move (either up or down) is on its way

The market opened lower, tracking the Asian markets that were trading in the red on concerns over developments in Japan and West Asia, and their impact on the global recovery. Nervousness ahead of the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) mid-quarter policy review also weighed on investors.

The indices made an attempt to push into the green in mid-morning trade, but the RBI's 25 basis point hike in key rates put pressure on the market, pushing it further southwards. Even the marginal fall in weekly food inflation numbers for the first week of March, which came out at around noon, was ignored by investors. The benchmarks slipped to their day's lows in the last half an hour and closed a little above those levels.

The market opened with a downward gap following sharp losses in the US yesterday and Asian markets today. During the day, the Sensex hit a high of 18,354 and the Nifty went up to 5,510 before the announcement of the credit policy. But after the credit policy announcement the Sensex went down to hit a low of 18,104 and the Nifty was down to 5,435. Eventually, the Sensex closed at 18,150, down 209 points and the Nifty closed at 5447, a loss of 65 points. The advance-decline ratio on the National Stock Exchange was 607:1050.

The market breadth on the key indices was negative. The Sensex had 22 losers and eight gainers at the end of the session. The 50-share Nifty closed with 35 stocks in the red and 15 in the green. Among the broader indices, the BSE Mid-cap index declined 0.29% and the BSE Small-cap index fell by 0.38%.

In the sectoral space, BSE Power (up 0.22%) and BSE Consumer Durables (up 0.08%) were the only two gainers. BSE Fast Moving Consumer Goods (down 1.54%), BSE IT (down 1.50%), BSE Auto (down 1.27%), BSE Metal (down 1.18%) and BSE TECk (down 1.15%) were the top losers.

The top Sensex gainers were Reliance Communications (up 3.50%), BHEL (up 1.98%), Reliance Infrastructure (up 1.16%), Cipla (up 0.98%) and Jaiprakash Associates (up 0.79%). Maruti Suzuki (down 4.44%), HDFC (down 3.68%), Hindalco Industries (down 2.49%), DLF (down 2.12%) and Infosys Technologies (down 1.79%) were the laggards on the index.

Home and auto loans may cost more as the RBI raised its short-term lending and borrowing rates by 25 basis points each, yet again today, with a view to check spiralling prices of essential commodities.

The short-term lending (repo) rate has been hiked to 6.75% and the short-term borrowing (reverse repo) rate to 5.75% with immediate effect. However, the central bank kept the cash reserve ratio (CRR) unchanged at 6%.

This is the eighth time since March 2010 that the RBI has resorted to a policy rate hike to tackle inflation, which is ruling above 8%, still above the comfort level of 5%-6%. Besides, the RBI has upped its March-end inflation forecast to 8% from 7% projected earlier.

In another development, food inflation fell to a three-and-a-half-month low of 9.42% for the week ended 5th March, from 9.52% in the previous week. The drop in food inflation, which is still above the comfort zone, is viewed as a breather for the government grappling with high price rise of essential commodities.

Markets in Asia settled in negative terrain, but recovered from the day's lows even as concerns over the nuclear situation in Japan continued. Shares of Tokyo Electric Power-traded for the first time since the earthquake-finished down 13%. The Nikkei 225, which had slipped 4% in early trade, pulled back to close 1.4% down.

The Shanghai Composite declined 1.14%, the Hang Seng fell 1.83%, the Jakarta Composite lost 1.34%, the KLSE Composite shed 0.02%, the Nikkei 225 declined 1.44%, the Straits Times slipped 0.69% and the Taiwan Weighted was 0.50% down. On the other hand, shipbuilding orders boosted the Seoul Composite as it ended 0.05% higher today.

Back home, foreign institutional investors were net sellers of stocks worth Rs134.52 crore on Wednesday. Domestic institutional investors were net buyers of equities worth Rs326.72 crore.

Gilead Sciences, a California based bio-pharmaceutical research firm along with its patent partner Roche Holding AG has sued Indian generic drug maker Natco Pharma (up 0.14%) for allegedly infringing a US patent for Tamiflu, which is used in the treatment of bird and swine-flu. Gilead has requested a federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, to block generic versions of Tamiflu until its patent expires in 2017.

In February, Natco filed an Abbreviated New Drug Application with USFDA under Para-IV with USFDA and alleged that Gilead's patent on the drug is invalid and sent a notice to Gilead to that effect.

Indian alumina and aluminium producer, Nalco (down 3.39%), has cut aluminium prices in the domestic market by Rs2,500 ($55.2) per tonne. The aluminium major has reduced the price to match with the falling LME (London Metal Exchange) prices.

The basic price of standard aluminium ingots and that of standard aluminium sow ingots has been cut to Rs1,40,200 a tonne and to Rs1,40,150 per tonne respectively. The new prices for all aluminium products, which came into effect from Wednesday, will remain valid till 31st March.

Ramky Infrastructure (down 0.45%) has secured new orders totalling Rs288.32 crore across water and waste water and building verticals. The first order, valued at Rs93.86 crore, is from the Bijapur city municipal council for rehabilitation of existing sewerage system and interception and extension of sewerage system to new areas (district 1A) and rehabilitation of primary storm water drain and for improvements of sewerage system in the city limits. The second order, valued at Rs 97.17 crore, is bagged from Lodha Developers, for civil construction works for its 'Casa Rio' housing project at Dombivali.



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High crude prices to put pressure on fiscal deficit: RBI

Political unrest in Egypt and Libya followed by protests in the Middle East has led to a spike in international crude prices, which at present are hovering around $100 a barrel. High oil prices could lead to greater subsidies to reduce burden on the common man

Mumbai: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) today warned high crude prices in global market could inflate the petroleum and fertilizer subsidy bill and put pressure on fiscal deficit which the government plans to bring down to 4.6$ in the next fiscal, reports PTI.

"While the budgeted level of fiscal deficit for 2011-12 gives some comfort on the demand front, a potential increase in the subsidies on petroleum products and fertilizers as a result of high crude prices could put pressure on expenditure," the RBI said in its mid-quarter monetary policy.

It is critical, therefore, to focus on the quality of expenditure, without compromising on delivery of services, the apex bank said.

"Only by doing this can the fiscal situation contribute to demand-side inflation management," it added.

The government has pegged the fiscal deficit for the next fiscal at 4.6%, which works out to be Rs4,12,817 crore. For the current fiscal, it is pegged at 5.1% of the gross domestic product (GDP).

Political unrest in Egypt and Libya followed by protests in the Middle East has led to a spike in international crude prices, which at present are hovering around $100 a barrel. High oil prices could lead to greater subsidies to reduce burden on the common man.

The RBI further said it had expressed concern about the widening of the current account deficit (CAD) and the nature of its financing in its Third Quarter Review.

However, going by the recent robust export performance, CAD for 2010-11 is now estimated to come lower than earlier expected, at around 2.5% of GDP, it added.

The RBI further said there should be greater emphasis on attracting long-term inflows components, including foreign direct investment (FDI).

"While CAD for this year has been financed comfortably, it is necessary to focus on quality of capital inflows with greater emphasis on attracting long-term components, including foreign direct investment (FDI)... to enhance sustainability of balance of payments over the medium-term," it added.


RTI activist alleges Nehru Museum director’s link with Congress is breach of service rules

Subhash Agrawal says Prof Mridula Mukherjee’s association with editorial board of a party publication is not permitted under civil service regulations

An RTI query reveals that the director of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library is guilty of violating civil service conduct rules by virtue of her also being on the editorial board of a Congress party publication. However, as the director is the appellate authority to the information officer, the reply provided is incomplete and evasive, according to an RTI activist.

The query was posted by renowned RTI (right to information) activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, and in reply, the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) admitted that its director, Professor Mridula Mukherjee, had violated provisions of the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules and Central Civil Services (Classification, Control & Appeal) Rules which forbids officials from involvement in any political party or organisation. Prof Mukherjee is a member of the editorial board for a publication that has been published by the Congress party to mark its 125th year.

However, while admitting that Prof Mukherjee is a member of the editorial board of 'Congress and the Making of the Indian Nation', which is in two volumes, the information officer, Purnima Arora, was evasive on the exact nature of the violation of rules. But she admitted that NMML comes under the purview of the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules and Central Civil Services (Classification, Control & Appeal) Rules.

It follows as a corollary that, therefore, NMML members are also not allowed to be associated with a party or political organisation, or offer any assistance in any manner. However, when asked about whether Prof Mukherjee has violated any service by-rules, the reply was evasive. "The query of the applicant is not covered under the definition of 'information' as given in section 2(f) of the RTI Act 2005," Ms Arora said. Citing a precedent, she said that giving advice or making suggestions to an enquirer falls under the scope of the Act.

Ms Arora also stated that no records are available of any action taken against Prof Mukherjee and that neither has any explanation been sought from her, nor has she volunteered any.

But, Mr Agrawal also cites a precedent that indicates a liberal interpretation of the Act for public welfare. He said, "Honourable Mr Justice S Ravindra Bhatt of Delhi High Court in the matter Bhagat Singh vs CIC (W.P.(C) No.3114/2007) has held that the Right to Information Act being a right-based enactment is akin to a welfare measure and as such should receive liberal interpretation."

Mr Agrawal has thus requested that the information authorities should answer his queries. Incidentally, the appellate authority in this case would be the director of NMML, Prof Mukherjee, herself.

'Congress and the Making of the Indian Nation' is edited by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, and it has been criticised by opposition parties and others for a distorted portrayal of the Emergency. The book blames Sanjay Gandhi for the compulsory sterilisation that was among the major excesses of the Emergency, and apparently absolves the former prime minister Indira Gandhi and other leaders.

This new controversy while hurting the Congress party further, also undermines the integrity of a premier institution like NMML.


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