BQuick On March 18: Top 10 Stories In Under 10 Minutes    
Pedestrians walk up a flight of stairs towards a train station in Tokyo, Japan (Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg)  

BQuick On March 18: Top 10 Stories In Under 10 Minutes   

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

1. India Coronavirus Count Reaches 151

The number of coronavirus cases in the country rose to 151 with 14 new cases discovered across Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Ladakh, Kerala and Maharashtra. West Bengal also reported its first case of Covid-19.

  • The number includes 25 foreign nationals, three persons who have died and 14 people who have been discharged.
  • There are also at least 276 Indians abroad who have been infected with coronavirus, most of whom are in Iran.
  • Maharashtra continues to be the hotbed in the country with the most cases at 42.
  • India’s richest state is planning to add around 10 new testing facilities in the coming days. One of them at Mumbai's KEM Hospital was activated today.
  • Each of the 13 labs will test 180 to 250 samples everyday. Their tests will be validated by the National Institute of Virology.
  • Mumbai’s municipal commission stepped up its efforts to curb the spread after detecting a fresh case today. It has put out a list of 89 isolation beds that are available across public and private hospitals in the city.

Follow developments around the novel coronavirus outbreak in India here.

2. India Plans Easier Loan, Tax Rules To Cushion Virus Impact

India is considering offering easier loan repayment terms and tax breaks for small-and medium-sized companies to help Asia’s third-largest economy weather the onslaught of the coronavirus, a person with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg News.

  • The Finance Ministry is considering extending loan tenors and relaxing bad-debt norms for small firms, the person said, asking not to be identified as the discussions were private.
  • Bad loan norms may be relaxed and GST for hospitality and tourism companies may be removed.
  • Commercial vehicle aggregators too may get loan repayment relief.

Also read: Mall Owners To Moviemakers Brace For Coronavirus Hit

3. Coronavirus Impact: Challenges Of Free Testing And The Economic Cost

Free testing for Covid-19 will not be feasible due to higher costs, according to Thyrocare Technologies Ltd.’s A Velumani.

  • “Doing tests for free is out of the question. This is not a routine test, it costs around Rs 10,000-12,000 on a commercial scale,” Velumani, managing director of company, told BloombergQuint in an interview.
  • Tests could be done at a subsidised rate though, he said.

Velumani, however, said hospitals will have an upper hand at doing tests than standalone diagnostic centers.

India’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic will come at a “high economic cost”, according to Nomura’s Chief India Economist Sonal Varma, as state and central governments increasingly introduce social distancing measures which are likely to impact business activity and demand.

  • “The probability of social distancing measures extending beyond 15 days is high, so unless we see some plateauing out of the infection rate, we will see these lockdown measures and policy continue,” Varma told BloombergQuint in an interview.
  • The longer the measures continue, the larger the impact, she said. “Cash flows in businesses—especially in the services sector—and income wage of daily labourers will be impacted.”

Watch the full interview with Sonal Varma on what could be the magnitude of the cost.

4. Bears Remain In Charge Of Sensex

Indian equity markets posted their third straight day of losses on Wednesday, mirroring weak global cues.

  • The S&P BSE Sensex fell 4.72 percent or 1,709.58 points to end at 29,133, the lowest level since March 2017.
  • 28 out of the 30 constituents ended with losses.
  • The NSE Nifty 50 index fell 500 points or 5.56 percent to end at 8,468.
  • This was the lowest closing level for the index since January 23, 2017.
  • 44 out of the 50 Nifty stocks ended with losses.
  • Barring the media index, all other sectoral indices ended with losses.
  • IndusInd Bank bore the brunt of the selloff in banking stocks as it saw a quarter of its market cap wiped out in a day’s trade despite the bank's assurance that it was well capitalised.

Follow the day’s trading action here.

BQuick On March 18: Top 10 Stories In Under 10 Minutes    

Topsy-Turvy 2020

2020 is already the most volatile for Indian stocks in nine years as the novel coronavirus outbreak threatens to cripple a slowing economy.

  • So far this year, there have been six instances when the benchmark NSE Nifty 50 has moved more than 3 percent in one day, the highest number of such swings since 2011, according to Bloomberg data.
  • Of these, the 50-stock gauge lost more than 3 percent in five cases.

The recent rout also led half of the Nifty 50 stocks fall below levels seen during demonetisation.

BQuick On March 18: Top 10 Stories In Under 10 Minutes    

Advice From A Veteran

Manish Chokhani believes that there will be companies that will defy a slowing economy, and that’s what investors should chase even during the coronavirus turmoil.

  • “You don’t make money out of GDP growth, you make money out of earnings growth, and where people are gaining disproportionate market share.
  • “That story continues,” Chokhani, director at Enam Holdings Pvt. Ltd., told BloombergQuint in an interview.

Chokhani said when the economic activity and markets recover, all the stuff that has fallen will see similar upticks.

5. U.S. Stocks Slump, Crude Crashes As Global Virus Cases Near 2 Lakh Mark

President Donald Trump said the U.S. and Canada agreed to close the border between the two countries to non-essential traffic. He plans to announce “very important news” from the Food and Drug Administration.

  • This even as cases hit 1,94,604 worldwide, and deaths exceeded 7,800
  • Cases soared in Iran and Spain, while Hong Kong witnessed its biggest daily increase

Follow global updates from the coronavirus pandemic here.

Financial markets continued to spasm on Wednesday, with U.S. stocks reversing Tuesday’s rally, as the economic fallout from the pandemic outpaces the massive response from governments and central banks.

  • The S&P 500 fell about 4 percent, resuming a sell-off that’s taken it 29 percent from its record.
  • The index rallied 6 percent on Tuesday after the Trump administration considered up to $1 trillion in spending and the Federal Reserve dusted off crisis-era programmes to stabilize financial markets.
  • The dollar strengthened a seventh straight day, while the pound hit its lowest level against the greenback since 1985.
  • West Texas Intermediate crude crashed 13 percent to $23.43 a barrel.

Get your daily fix of global market here.

6. RBI’s Intervention To Cool Down Yields

The Reserve Bank of India has once again stepped in with interventions targeted at ensuring the smooth functioning of local money markets.

  • The central bank on Wednesday said that it will buy Rs 10,000 crore in government bonds under the open market operations programme to cool-off bond yields which had started to rise.
  • The auction will be conducted on March 20, the RBI said.
  • The announcement helped pull down bond yields which has surged to 6.34 percent intraday. Soon after the announcement yields fell more than 10 basis points to 6.23 percent.

Instead of a direct rate cut like other global central banks, the RBI has taken targeted measures. Read more.

7. Reasses Telecom Dues? It’s A Hard No From The Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court today said that telecom companies will have to pay interest and penalty as per its earlier judgment.

  • The two-judge bench consisting of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice MR Shah asked the telecom department as to who allowed the companies to reasses the dues and said it will amount to sheer contempt of court.
We are of the conclusive opinion that no self-assessment or reassessment shall be done.
Supreme Court Bench
  • The top court made it clear that it will not allow another round of litigation in the case and the companies will have to make the payments as per the directions of the court in the October judgment.

The court will also hear the government’s rescue plan for telecom in the next hearing after two weeks.

8. Madhu Kapur Pares Yes Bank Stake; New Investors Stare At A Windfall

Madhu Kapur, member of the family that co-founded Yes Bank Ltd., sold shares worth Rs 161 crore in the beleaguered private lender that has seen its shares surge on the back of a rescue by a clutch of lenders under a plan prepared by India’s banking regulator.

  • Kapur sold 2.48 crore shares at Rs 65.07 apiece on Wednesday, according to bulk deals reported by the NSE.
  • Kapur is wife of the late Ashok Kapur, who founded the private lender along with Rana Kapoor in 2004.
  • Her holding in the bank has now fallen from 17.28 crore (1.38 percent stake) shares to 14.80 crore shares (1.18 percent).

Find out what price Kapur sold her shares at.

The bailout of Yes Bank Ltd. could well be one of the best investments for a consortium of lenders led by State Bank of India.

  • SBI and seven private banks have invested Rs 10,000 crore to buy 1,000 crore shares at Rs 10 each in the struggling lender under the rescue plan.
  • After Yes Bank’s shares jumped more than 67 percent in March so far, the investment was worth Rs 59,100 crore, as on March 17.
  • Not just that. The banks can recover more than what they ploughed in by selling just 25 percent shares that are outside the lock-in imposed under the reconstruction scheme after the central bank seized control of Yes Bank citing its poor financial position.

The windfall comes even before shares have been issued to them.

Also read: Yes Bank Starts Down The Long Road To Regaining Depositor Trust

9. Air Traffic Was Just Rebounding Before The Virus Hit

Air passenger traffic surged in February, just a month before travel restrictions kicked in to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

  • The number of passengers flying Indian airlines rose at 9 percent year-on-year in February, the fastest pace in three months, according to data compiled from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.
  • Nearly 1.23 crore passengers took to the skies during the month.
  • The surge in traffic came as airlines offered discounts on fares to boost demand in the seasonally weak month.

Passenger growth in March, however, will suffer as the world’s fastest-growing aviation market placed curbs on travel amid mounting coronavirus cases.

Also read: Highway Construction May Contract First Time In Six Years. What It Means For Road Builders

10. Battling Covid-19: Lessons From Kerala’s Nipah Outbreak

Management of Nipah demonstrated that government could not manage the response alone, writes former Kerala Health Secretary Rajeev Sadanandan.

  • As in Nipah management, the private sector will be an active partner in managing the case-load that may emerge.
  • Punitive measures were taken to deal with messages that provided wrong information or were intended to create panic.
  • The psychosocial needs of the quarantined and isolated persons were another need identified in the Nipah period.

Transparency, while it is needed to control the epidemic, comes at a tremendous economic cost.

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