Watch this week's lows for weakness
The market ended marginally lower in the holiday-shortened week, mostly on domestic cues. Weak industrial output numbers for February, a rise in headline inflation for March and lower-than-expected fourth-quarter results and guidance by Infosys were the main factors that were responsible for the decline. The Sensex lost 65 points (0.33%) to end the week at 19,387 and the Nifty shed 17 points (0.30%) to settle at 5,825.
Among Sensex stocks, Hero Honda soared 10%, Jaiprakash Associates jumped 5%, ITC surged 4%, Larsen & Toubro and Bharti Airtel gained 3% each. On the other hand, Infosys Technologies (down 7%) was the biggest loser, followed by DLF (down 6%), Jindal Steel & Power (down 4%), Wipro (down 3%) and Reliance Communications (down 2%) for the week.
In the sectoral space, BSE Fast Moving Consumer Goods and BSE Capital Goods gained 2% each, whereas BSE IT declined 5% and BSE TECk fell by 3%.
Corporate earnings are likely to influence the direction of the market in the week ahead. While the IT sector will be subdued, the manufacturing and services sectors are expected to show good Q4 growth.
Industrial output in February, as measured by the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), rose slower than expected by 3.6% in February from a year earlier. Overall, for April 2010-February 2011, the IIP grew by 7.8%, compared to 10% in the previous corresponding period.
Despite the moderation in industrial growth, the Planning Commission is confident that the country would clock over 8.5% economic expansion in 2010-11. According to Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, more than anticipated growth in the farm sector will make up for the shortfall in industrial output.
However, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has lowered its economic growth rate forecast for India in 2011 to 8.2%, warning that boom-like conditions could lead to over-heating of the economy. The multilateral lending agency had earlier projected the country's economy to grow by 8.4% in 2011.
"The challenge for many emerging and some developing economies (is) to ensure that present boom-like conditions do not develop into overheating over the coming year," the IMF said in its 'World Economic Outlook' report this week.
Headline inflation for March came in at 8.98%, raising the possibility of yet another hike in key policy rates by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) next month. Higher inflation was attributed to an increase in prices of food and manufactured goods.
Meanwhile, food inflation fell to a year's low of 8.28% for the week ended 2nd April, from 9.18% in the previous week, as prices of certain essential items like pulses and wheat, declined. This is the third consecutive week of decline in food inflation. The lowest level of food inflation in 2010 was on 20th November, when it stood at 8.60%.
IT bellwether Infosys Technologies, which officially rolled out the quarterly earnings season, disappointed the market. The company's net profit grew by 13.6% to Rs1,818 crore for the March quarter, hurt by higher costs in the seasonally weak fourth quarter.
On the corporate front, the Supreme Court on Friday directed UK-based telecom major Vodafone to appear before the Income Tax (I-T) Department which had instructed the company to pay penalty in the $2 billion tax case relating to the telecom major's stake purchase in Hutchison-Essar.
The Court also made it clear that if the I-T Department passes any order for penalty, it would not be enforced till a further order of the Court, where the tax dispute is still pending.
In a separate matter, the Court directed Mahindra Satyam to make its presentation before the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) relating to its tax dispute within two weeks, and asked it to furnish a bank guarantee of Rs617 crore. The Court said the accounts of the company will be defreezed subject to payment of the bank guarantee at its registry by 25th April.
On the international front, Japan's core machinery orders fell by 2.3% in February from the previous month. The figures are expected to fall sharply going ahead as the 11th March earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent nuclear crisis disrupted supply chains and production.
Chinese imports rose $1.02 billion in January-March 2011, marking its first quarterly deficit since 2004. However, for the month of March, it reported a small trade surplus of $140 million, after a $7.3 billion deficit in February.
Consumer price inflation in China jumped to 5.4% in the year to March, the fastest since July 2008 and above analysts' estimates of a 5.2% increase. Also, China's GDP increased by 9.7% in the first quarter, from a year earlier, but it was lower from the 9.8% in the last three months of 2010.
LeapFrog Investments has announced a Rs62 crore investment in Apollo Investment, an East African insurance group
LeapFrog Investments has announced a Rs62 crore investment in Apollo Investment Ltd (AIL)-an East African insurance group. LeapFrog, launched with US President Bill Clinton in 2008, has become the world's largest investment fund focused on insurance to under-served people. The fund has focused on India as a key market, and plans to make a major investment in the coming months.
LeapFrog co-founder, Dr Jim Roth, said, "We are on the cusp of a major deal in India. The Apollo investment demonstrates how LeapFrog supports strong management with capital and expertise. We help position a company to be a national leader by focusing on the opportunity mass market insurance presents for growth and profitability." Mr Roth added, "India is a key market for LeapFrog now and in years to come."
"LeapFrog is a swift and thoughtful partner," said Ashok Shah, who is continuing as Apollo CEO. "LeapFrog capital and global insurance expertise will help Apollo to become the preeminent regional player in insurance-including in microinsurance. We are taking the next leap." Mr Shah is the recent winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to the Kenyan insurance industry.
Beyond its current life, health, and property insurance activities, Apollo is now targeting a market of 7.9 million self-employed people in the informal sector. Success for AIL and LeapFrog will mean a major increase in affordable insurance cover for under-served people.
The Indian market will surely benefit from an investment of resources and time by LeapFrog, boosting inclusive financial services as a focus for international investment, and ensuring that many more Indians access the financial products and security they need.
Nomura Research and Sharekhan describe strong recovery in profitability in January-March 2011; point to correction on reduced demand as peak season closes
Indian cement companies are expected to register a strong recovery in profitability in the fourth quarter of FY2010-11 on the back of surging prices, but they could face a tough time going ahead as the peak season is about to end and a price correction is around the corner, according to Nomura Equity Research.
The slow demand and a correction in prices would curtail any significant stock price performance post the results, the research firm says in a recent report. "It's been a mixed quarter for the Indian cement industry, with volume growth remaining sluggish, but price increases out-doing cost escalations. As a result, we think profitability looks set to improve substantially, given the high sensitivity of realisations to profitability," Nomura said.
Cement companies are expected to register a volume growth of 6% in the March quarter, compared to 4% and 3% in the previous two quarters. However, overall volume growth for FY11 would be around 5%, among the lowest in recent years.
The lower growth is attributed to lower than expected spending on infrastructure projects and a slowdown in the real estate sector, Sharekhan, another brokerage, said in a report. The volumes of companies operating in the southern region are also likely to decline, it said.
Cement producers were under tremendous pressure on account of oversupply in the market. But in the March-end quarter, discipline in production and a rise in demand pushed prices up by around 10% from that in the previous quarter. All India cement prices are at around Rs250 a 50-kg bag.
During the January-March quarter, all India cement prices went up to Rs285 a bag, compared to Rs225 a bag in the previous quarter. Since the beginning of April, however, prices have corrected by around Rs5 to Rs10 per bag.
The largest price escalation was observed in the north and east, followed by the west, while the price trend in the south was mixed, Sharekhan reported.
In January-March period, the Moneylife Cement Index remained flat, even as the benchmark Sensex dropped by 5%. Major cement stocks improved marginally in the fourth quarter. Ultratech Cement, Ambuja Cement and Shree Cement were top performers, gaining by 4%, 3% and 3%, respectively. ACC Ltd and Heidelberg Cement India remained flat.