BQuick On March 31: Top 10 Stories In Under 10 Minutes  
A sign for Delhi Junction is displayed at a platform inside the empty Delhi Junction railway station during a lockdown (Photographer: T. Narayan/Bloomberg)

BQuick On March 31: Top 10 Stories In Under 10 Minutes  

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

1. India Covid-19 Count Nears 1,400; Global Death Toll Crosses 38,000

India added 146 fresh Covid-19 cases today.

  • The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in India rose to 1,397, according to the health ministry data as of 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
  • The count includes 124 people who have been cured or discharged and 35 who succumbed to the respiratory illness.
  • Maharashtra reported 72 new cases just today.
  • The Indian Council of Medical Research said that India conducted over 4,000 tests on Monday taking the total testing done to over 42,000.
  • However, the apex medical research body warned that India continues to face a shortage of testing kits.
  • Availability of testing kits is a big issue, ICMR said.

Follow the coronavirus outbreak in India here.

Globally, cases rose past 7.88 lakh leaving nearly 38,000 dead. Over 1.66 lakh have reportedly recovered.

  • Europe is set for a longer lockdown as Spain recorded its deadliest day with fatalities crossing 8,000.
  • New York City, which is emerging as the new epicenter of the pandemic, reported a 16 percent increase in deaths in six hours.
  • China said it had found 1,541 asymptomatic cases of coronavirus, providing a better picture of the scale of the country’s epidemic.

Catch how the globe is tackling the virus spread here.

2. India To Borrow Rs 4.88 Lakh Crore In First Half Of FY21

India will raise Rs 4.88 lakh crore through gross market borrowings in the first six months of the financial year ending March 2021.

  • The borrowing, which includes repayment of past loans, will be 62.56 percent of the total gross borrowing for the next financial year, said Economic Affairs Secretary Atanu Chakraborty.
  • That compares with 62.25 percent in April-September of 2019-20.
  • India will issue weekly government securities of Rs 19,000-21,000 crore as compared to Rs 17,000 crore in the last year.
  • These will have a maturity of 2, 5, 10, 14, 30 and 40 years, Chakraborty said.

The government said it is ready to provide any necessary stimulus for fighting the Covid-19 outbreak.

3. Government Slashes Small Savings Schemes Interest Rates

The government cut the interest on small savings schemes in the April-June period by anywhere between 70-140 basis points.

  • The interest rate on Public Provident Fund deposits has been cut by 80 bps to 7.1 percent, according to a government notification.
  • The interest rate on National Savings Certificate has been slashed by 110 bps to 6.8 percent.
BQuick On March 31: Top 10 Stories In Under 10 Minutes  

4. Loan Moratorium: What Your Bank Is Offering

After the Reserve Bank of India allowed lenders to offer a three-month moratorium on term loans and working capital repayments, banks have started rolling out their communications to their borrowers.

  • Most public sector banks have adopted an ‘opt-out’ strategy, where customers are being automatically offered a moratorium unless they inform the bank that they don’t want one.
  • In contrast, most private banks are asking individual borrowers to approach them with requests for moratorium, which will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Here’s what State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, ICICI Bank Ltd., and others are offering.

Also read: As Interest Rates Fall, Borrowers’ Gain Is Depositors’ Pain

5. Indian Markets Cap Manic March With A Gain

Indian benchmarks cooled off from the highest point of the day but ended with gains that helped pare the worst quarterly loss on record.

  • On Tuesday, the S&P BSE Sensex ended 3.62 percent higher at 29,468.
  • For the month, the index posted losses of 23 percent, its worst ever fall in the month of March.
  • The NSE Nifty 50 index ended with gains of 3.82 percent at 8,597.

Follow the day’s trading action here.

U.S. Stocks, Crude Rebound

U.S. stocks erased losses after economic data topped estimates, as investors debate whether the market meltdown has ended given the continued spread of the coronavirus.

  • The S&P 500 turned higher after a consumer confidence measure and a regional manufacturing reading fell less than expected.
  • Still, the benchmark for American equities is down more than 18 percent this year as measures to combat the pandemic shutter large parts of the economy.
  • Unprecedented government spending and monetary stimulus lifted stocks from a rout that reached 33 percent, but the hit to GDP is shaping up to be monumental, with Goldman Sachs now forecasting a 34 percent contraction in the second quarter before a sharp rebound.
  • Gold sank 1.1 percent to $1,605.32 an ounce.
  • West Texas Intermediate crude rose 4.4 percent to $20.97 a barrel.

Get your daily fix of global markets here.

6. More Pain Ahead For India’s Auto Sector

Auto wholesales in March are estimated to fall as buyers stayed away amid coronavirus outbreak and dealers waited to exhaust BS-IV inventory ahead of transmission to stricter emission standards, according to four brokerages.

  • Factory-gate shipments of passenger cars, two-wheelers and commercial vehicles are likely to tumble in the range of 29-71 percent year-on-year in March, data compiled from the reports of four brokerages—Nomura, Emkay Global, Motilal Oswal and Nirmal Bang—showed.
  • While deep discounts helped cushion sales a bit during the festival season and in December, both retail sales, measured by registrations, and wholesales tumbled in January and February due to disruption caused by BS-VI emission norms.

And now a nationwide lockdown to combat the Covid-19 pandemic has stalled operations at companies and dealerships.

7. Maharashtra Seeks Rs 25,000 Crore Package To Fight Covid-19

Maharashtra has sought a special package worth Rs 25,000 crore from the central government and asked it to release pending dues to fight the economic crisis stemming from the new coronavirus outbreak.

  • The 21-day lockdown announced by the central government has stopped all business activity, and industries, trade and services have come to a standstill in the state, Ajit Pawar, deputy chief minister and finance minister of Maharashtra, wrote in his letter to the central government, according to a statement.
  • All this has impacted the income of the state, he said.
  • The March 30 letter was sent to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, and Nitin Gadkari and Prakash Javadekar, two ministers in the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled central government from Maharashtra.

Pawar has also asked the Centre to clear pending dues worth over Rs 16,000 crore.

Also read: Salary Cuts Up To 60% For Chief Minister, Officials, Ministers In Maharashtra

8. Longer Lockdown Can Hurt Many Sectors, But Insurers Have A Silver Lining

India’s three-week long lockdown to combat spreading of coronavirus has put several sectors under pressure.

  • While the country may still quickly recover from this period of isolation, a possible extension will deepen the pit of troubles.
  • That’s according to Saswata Guha, director of financial institutions at Fitch Ratings India.
If the lockdown is for two or three months then some of the pressures that are arguably looking cyclical for sectors, other than banks, may very well end up looking structural. And there’s the concern.
Saswata Guha, Director - Financial Institutions, Fitch Ratings

Watch the full conversation with Fitch Ratings’ Guha here.

There will be very muted growth, if at all, for the insurance industry in the first quarter of financial year 2020-21, according to HDFC Life Insurance Company Ltd.’s Vibha Padalkar, but the Covid-19 pandemic may serve as an inflection point when Indians realise the importance of insurance.

  • “We as a sector are seeing a grinding halt, or a slowdown in new policies, at least in the last one week,” Padalkar, managing director and chief executive officer at the private insurer, said in an interview with BloombergQuint.
  • Even though there is demand for protection products amid the spread of Covid-19, there are operational challenges in selling and servicing insurance products digitally, Padalkar said.

The other reason for the slowdown. Find out what.

Related Coverage

9. Government Proposes Amendments To Curb Export Frauds

Having found various instances of export fraud under the Goods and Services Tax regime, the government has now proposed measures to address the abuse.

  • Recent Investigations unearthed vanishing and untraceable exporters who claim fake refunds and overvalue exports to obtain higher input tax credit.
  • The Federation of Indian Export Organisations, too, conceded in January that some exporters could have misused the refund facility under the GST regime.
  • To counter this misuse, the government has proposed a cap on the value of exports; and recovery of refund along with interest if proceeds from exports are not realised within a certain time frame.

Read more on the proposed amendments.

10. The Problem Of Two Hows In New E-Commerce Tax

In a surprise move, the government has introduced a new tax levy on foreign e-commerce operators who don’t have a business presence in India.

  • The levy has been brought in via an amendment to the Finance Bill, 2020.
  • Starting April this year, all such non-resident entities will be subject to an equalisation levy on a quarterly basis.
  • Simply put, income that foreign e-commerce entities are generating from India will now be subject to tax.
  • It’ll be applicable at the rate of 2 percent on sale of goods as well as services that take place through foreign e-commerce operators.

But experts say that there are two challenges in the implementation of this levy. Read more.

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