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India lands an economic jab at China

The most subtle battles between countries are fought in the arenas of App Store and Google Play. Late last night, the Indian government banned 59 Chinese apps including popular ones like Tik Tok, WeChat and Cam Scanner for “stealing and surreptitiously transferring data”. This economic warfare move comes a day before the third round of talks between Indian and Chinese military commanders.

That’s not all: Without any official order from the Centre, various ports in India have started checking and leading to delays in consignments coming in from China. China has been quick to pick up, retaliating with exactly the same behaviour for Indian consignments at Chinese ports. Out goes the Just-In-Time strategy. The government also announced the setting up of a panel reduce aluminium imports. TTK Prestige got into action and tried to get brownie points by announcing a stop to all imports from 30th September onwards.

India is not the only battle China is fighting: China is like the problem child every one needs but just can’t get along with. US and China have now been trading not just every product under the sun but also verbal blows, company blacklisting, flight bans, journalist expulsions and even regulatory punches. Unlike India where the reason for debate is simply the border, with US and China the reasons range from blame game over coronavirus, trade inequality and outsourcing as well as Chinese action on Hongkong.

RBI doing the twist again

Yesterday, RBI announced the latest season of “Operation Twist”, coming to a Treasury Desk near you on July 2nd. To clue in, Operation Twist is RBI’s attempt to manage the debt yield curve through Open Market Operation of buying and selling bonds. RBI intends to buy longer tenure government bonds ranging from 2027 to 2033 and selling four short maturity papers. This season of Operation Twist is for Rs. 10,000 Crores each in both buying and selling.

Recap for Operation Twist: Inspired by the US, the name and process has it’s origins in the US where the Fed tried to boost the economy by lowering long term interest rates. The Indian edition started some time late last year with two seasons conducted in 2019. In light of the coronavirus, Operation Twist has been a mixed bag of hits and misses.

What else has RBI been up to? Since cooperative banks has started to act like estranged, errant children, the government passed an ordinance to bring 1482 urban and 58 multi-state cooperative banks under the wings of RBI. From tomorrow, 1st July, RBI has also come up with 7.15% floating rate savings bonds with a bi-annual interest reset. These are to replace the very popular 7.75% fixed interest RBI bonds which were withdrawn this month.

Boris Johnson promises to do a Roosevelt

Apart from winning the World War without fighting on home ground, Franklin Roosevelt is known for the “New Deal program” that involved massive government spending to come out of the Great Depression. Even from his grave, he seems to have provided inspiration to US Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

What did Johnson say anyway? Instead of swinging to the side of austerity measures, Johnson decided to go bold. He unveiled a 1 Billion GBP school-building program, promising more, bigger spending. This is over and above the already announced emergency spending and tax measures of an estimated 133 Billion GBP.

Bottom line:  Drastic times call for drastic measures. UK is expected to see it’s economy contract by 10% this year and has already seen an unimagined drop of 20% in the month of April itself. Although balancing this ambitious plan with ballooning government debt will be a tricky challenge.

IN SNIPPETS

  • Hinduja edition of Game of Thrones: The four Hinduja brothers, with business spread over 38 countries, are pitted in a 3-1 legal battle at a UK court. Main contention? The younger brothers are challenging patriarch Srichand and his daughter’s assertion that a letter from 2015 of agreeing to joint ownership of all assets stands invalid.
  • India covers up in the race for Covid vaccine: Bharat Biotech, in association with Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Institute of Virology (NIV) is ready with Covaxin, the first Indian vaccine candidate to jump through the hoops of human trial testing.
  • Delhi-Mumbai rivalry for ambitious Plasma projects: This rivalry never gets old and on the subject of convalescent plasma therapy too, it might just get the best out of them. Yesterday, Maharashtra government announced Project Platina while Delhi settled for the more boring name of Plasma bank.
  • UTI AMC gets SEBI nod for IPO – In this drought of cheer in financial markets, UTI AMC bucked the trend by going ahead with their listing plans and crossing the hurdle of SEBI approval
  • Jio grows at the cost of Vodafone Idea: TRAI released the data of telecom subscribers as per operator, for the month ending Feb 29, 2020. Thanks to patchy network and fears of a total collapse, Vodafone Idea lost 34.67 Lakh subscribers in the month while Jio added almost double at 62.57 lakh subscribers.

MARKET PULSE

Markets remained subdued and retained their gentle rocking back and forth. Considering the situation we find ourselves in, that still seems far better than the stomach churning dips we have seen in the recent past.

Two major factors are assumed to be plaguing investors. One, the S&P report out on Friday paints a pretty darn gloomy picture for the Indian economy and the path to recovery. Impact of the report and it’s downgrading could be seen in the way investors gave the cold shoulder to Axis Bank and Bajaj Finance. Two, fears of rising cases globally and governmental inability to bring the virus under control also makes for jittery markets.

WILD CARD

Russian roulette: The US is seeing an interesting time when it comes to political mud slinging. Not only are we having a corona level crisis on our hands, but the upcoming US elections gives the proceedings a different edge. A New York Times report is now creating a furore by claiming Russia secretly offered Afghan militants bounties to kill US troops. Whoever said Cold War is dead?

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