BQuick On April 13: Top 10 Stories In Under 10 Minutes  
The sun sets behind cranes at a deep water port. (Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg)

BQuick On April 13: Top 10 Stories In Under 10 Minutes  

This is a roundup of the day’s stories in brief.

1. India’s Deadliest Day As Covid-19 Cases Rise

India saw its deadliest day of the Covid-19 pandemic with more than 50 lives lost over the last 24 hours as total infections continue to rise.

  • Total confirmed cases of Covid-19 in India stood at 9,352 on Monday evening, according to the health ministry’s website.
  • This includes 980 who have recovered and 324 deaths.
  • There have been 51 deaths in the last 24 hours.
  • India’s 21-day lockdown is all set to be extended further with most state chief ministers seeking a longer period of restricted activity.
  • Some states like Odisha, Punjab, Maharashtra and Telangana have already extended the lockdowns.
  • Still, India is considering to allow certain types of manufacturing and services to resume with restrictions to kick-start the economy and avoid job losses.
  • Meanwhile, Dharavi recorded two more cases taking the total tally to 49 including 5 deaths.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the country on April 14 at 10 a.m.

Follow developments around the coronavirus outbreak in India here.

Globally, cases topped 1.85 million with deaths rising above 1.14 lakh.

  • Seventy coronavirus vaccines are in development, with three being tested in human trials, the World Health Organization said.
  • The outbreak has stabilised across the U.S., according to the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Spain has also reported its smallest number of new infections since March 20.

Catch updates from the global spread of the coronavirus.

2. Nifty Drops Below 9,000, U.S. Stocks Fall

Indian equity markets ended a volatile trading session with cuts of over 1 percent, led predominantly by private banks and Reliance Industries.

  • The S&P BSE Sensex ended 1.5 percent lower at 36,090 while the Nifty 50 index fell 1.3 percent to end at 8,993.
  • Bajaj Finance was the top loser on the index, ending with losses of 10.3 percent.
  • Among sectoral indices, Nifty Pharma and Nifty Metal ended with gains. Nifty Realty remained the top sectoral loser, ending with losses of 4.9 percent.
  • 952 stocks ended the day with gains while 854 wound up trade with losses to their name.

Follow the day’s trading action here.

U.S. stocks fell before the start of an earnings season marked by the extraordinary uncertainties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

  • The S&P 500 declined 0.5 percent as of 9:50 a.m. New York time.
  • The MSCI Asia Pacific Index decreased 0.6 percent.
  • The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was little changed.
  • West Texas Intermediate crude increased 3.1 percent to $23.47 a barrel.

Get your fix of global markets update.

3. CPI Inflation At 4-Month Low

Retail inflation continued to ease in March on lower food and fuel prices and a fall in demand for non-essential items amid a nationwide lockdown to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

  • The Consumer Price Index-based inflation stood at 5.91 percent in March compared with 6.58 percent in February, according to data released by the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation on Monday.
  • The drop was led by continued easing in vegetable prices.
  • Agricultural commodities continued to see supply-side disruptions amid the lockdown.

Inflation over the next few months may be influenced significantly by Covid-19 related supply disruptions.

4. An Avant-Garde Role For Monetary Policy

Faced with an abrupt change in the macroeconomic scenario due to the local spread of Covid-19, India’s Monetary Policy Committee called for coordinated interest rate cuts and liquidity infusion to counter emerging growth risks and ensure financial stability.

  • The minutes of the meeting released on Monday showed that most committee members felt that these measures were essential to maintain financial stability and impact some support to growth.
  • RBI governor Shaktikanta Das said arresting risks to the growth outlook and preserving financial stability should receive the highest priority at this stage.
  • Noting that risks emerging from the spread of coronavirus, highlighted in the February policy statement, have come to the fore, Michael Patra argued for the need for monetary policy to play an ‘avant garde’ role.

Find out what other monetary policy members said during the emergency meet for a rate cut.

Also read: State Government Borrowing Costs Ease Marginally

5. Worst Slump Ever For Automakers

India’s automakers witnessed the worst-ever slump in sales as a prolonged slowdown and now the world’s biggest lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic stalled operations.

  • Domestic sales of passenger vehicles tumbled 51 percent year-on-year to 143,014 units in March, according to data released by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.
  • That’s the worst decline since 1997-98 when the auto industry body started recording data.
  • While car sales fell 52.12 percent over the last year to 85,229 units last month, shipments of utility vehicles declined 44.67 percent to 51,569 units.
  • Monthly factory-gate sales of commercial vehicles dropped the most across categories — 88.05 percent year-on-year to 13,027 units.

Here’s how each automobile segment fared in March.

6. Can Government Force Private Sector To Foot The Wage Bill?

No revenue. Cash reserves drying up. No government relief in sight. In light of all of these realities amid the Covid-19 outbreak, businesses are dialling up lawyers to ascertain what decisions they can or cannot take relating to their workforce.

The central government has directed all states to mandate that employers in all industries, shops and establishments must pay their workers without any deduction during the period of lockdown. States have issued their own and varied versions of this direction. Both have relied on the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1987 or Disaster Management Act, 2005 to issue directions to the private sector. These direc

  • Do these laws give the government such wide statutory powers so as to impose restrictions on private sector vis-à-vis their workforce?
  • Given some states have issued only advisories, compared to mandatory directions, is employee retrenchment an option there?
  • What steps should the government take to help private sector tide over the wage burden?

Here are some possible answers to these questions.

Also read: Exclude Moratorium Period During Lockdown From 90-Day NPA Timeline: Bombay High Court To ICICI Bank

7. Gadkari Sees Covid-19 As A ‘Blessing In Disguise’

India’s small and medium enterprises need immediate attention and a helping hand out of the crisis brought about by the coronavirus lockdown. But India’s Minister of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and Shipping Nitin Gadkari sees this as a “blessing in disguise” for the MSME sector.

  • He expects the sector to bounce back in 1-1.5 months.
  • “We’re working on a plan where exports will rise, imports will fall and growth potential increases with employment,” Gadkari said in an interview to The Quint.
  • “For this, we’re focusing on job creation in agriculture, tribal and rural sectors. We’re also working on new technologies and plans,” he said

Watch the full interview with Gadkari where he explains the government's various measures to ensure small businesses remain afloat.

8. One More Blow To The World’s Biggest Diamond Hub

India’s diamond processing industry, the world’s biggest, has faced multiple setbacks in the last three years—from the implementation of goods and services tax to being embroiled in the nation’s largest banking fraud. Now, the Covid-19 lockdown has only made things worse for one of the biggest export-oriented sectors.

  • Gross exports of gems and jewellery contracted 30.5 percent between December and March, nearly six times the pace of decline of 5.53 percent from April-November, according to Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council.
  • In March, exports dropped 56.40 percent after a nearly 20 percent slide in February.
  • Overall, the contraction is due to a fall in diamond shipments after the virus outbreak.

The lockdown has left more than a million workers who cut and polish about 90 percent of the world’s diamonds confined to their homes.

Related Coverage

9. How To Deal With A Pay Cut

The Covid-19 pandemic has stalled economic activity at an unprecedented scale globally, raising the spectre of job losses and salary cuts.

Depending on income and monthly expenses, salaried individuals fall into three buckets.

  • Those who can continue to pay for expenses, including equated monthly instalments on loans, and invest regularly.
  • People who can manage expenses but are likely to fall short of money to continue investing.
  • Salary earners who may struggle to manage expenses.

The first category needn’t worry. But, according to financial advisers, those in the second or the third bucket can do a few things to tide over this difficult phase.

10. iPhone With An iPad Like Design?

Apple Inc. is preparing a redesign of its top-tier iPhones, borrowing cues from the latest iPads, as part of a major fall refresh that will see 5G added to as many as four new handset models and the release of two key new accessories, according to people familiar with the plans.

  • This year’s successors to the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max will be joined by two lower-end models to replace the iPhone 11.
  • At least the two high-end devices will have flat stainless steel edges instead of the current curved design as well as more sharply rounded corners like the iPad Pro introduced in 2018.
  • Reminiscent of the iPhone 5 design, the new handsets will have flat screens rather than the sloping edges on current models, said the people asking not to be identified because the plans aren’t public.

Apple has also been developing a smaller and cheaper version of its HomePod speaker.

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