Weekly wrap – India’s haemorrhaging economy begins to heal

The global economy is recovering from the depths of the coronavirus crisis, but there are signs of slowing momentum in countries with a resurgence in infection rates, the International Monetary Fund said in a new report for G20 major economies.

The report, released ahead of this week’s virtual meetings of finance officials and leaders from the Group of 20 countries, underscored the uneven nature of the global recovery and warned the crisis would likely leave deep, unequal scars.

Meanwhile, according a report by Morgan Stanley, India’s economy has started to heal as is evident by a significant sequential improvement in high-frequency data such as PMI, rail freight, power demand, GST collections, and e-way bills.

Consumption and investments both are also expected to have improved, with exports positively contributing to growth, the report added.

Agriculture

Retail inflation for farm workers and rural labourers rose marginally to 6.59 per cent and 6.45 per cent, respectively, in October due to higher prices of certain food items, marking the first increase in the rates price rise in 2020.

India’s Food Ministry has given in-principle approval to 185 sugar mills and standalone distilleries to avail Rs 12,500 crore of loans for capacity addition of about 468 crore litre of ethanol per annum as part of its efforts to achieve 20 per cent blending with petrol.

In the last two years, 70 ethanol projects were sanctioned loans of Rs 3,600 crore. Apart from promoting ethanol production from sugarcane, the ministry is also making efforts to manufacture ethanol using surplus rice with state-owned FCI as well as maize.

Meanwhile weekly farmer markets in Maharashtra are a big hit with the consumers. The state government has issued fresh guidelines allocating specific responsibilities to officials of the Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Technology Management Agency and farmer producer companies.

The weekly farmer markets concept was launched over four years ago to put farmers in direct touch with consumers by setting up weekly vegetable markets. 

Metals

The shortage of iron ore is impacting the iron and steel industry in India. Iron ore supply, particularly in Eastern India has been affected as the mines which transferred hands, have not reached their full production levels. Acknowledging this “gap” between demand and supply of iron ore, it is likely that India might impose a temporary ban on exports of iron ore.

Meanwhile Indian steel company stocks have hogged the limelight in the last few days with the changing economic prospects post the Covid ravage. The stimulus package announced by the government in India and across the globe is expected to keep the demand for steel robust.

The strong rebound in demand across sectors and sharp rise in steel prices in the international markets have enabled Indian steel companies to hike prices since July.

The government is not only announcing new infrastructure projects, but also making timely payments to contractors who have completed the projects. Further, worries of cheaper imports from China have also disappeared as China has turned an importer of steel rather than exporting to India.

Gold

Gold price during the week fell to Rs 50,850 per 10 gm at the close of the week, while silver decreased to trend at Rs 61,600 per kg. Spot gold headed for its longest slump since March, as positive vaccine developments spurred investors to unwind holdings in exchange-traded funds backed by the metal.

Holdings in gold-backed ETFs sold off for a fifth straight session on Wednesday, and have dropped more than 50 tonnes since Pfizer Inc. announced its coronavirus vaccine breakthrough last week as demand for bullion as a haven waned.  

The purchase of sovereign gold bonds (SGBs) since April, driven by lockdown-led demand, has subsided in tandem with the reopening of physical gold markets. Sales in August (6.35 tonnes) were the highest ever in a month since the launch of SGBs in 2015.

However, sales in the last three months have fallen to only 6.623 tonnes. Indeed, sales of bonds in November, or the in Dhanteras and Diwali week, at 1.57 tonnes, were the lowest since April, after the nationwide lockdown was imposed at the end of March this year.

Energy

Oil prices are set to rebound in 2021 as optimism grows around a COVID vaccine and OPEC looks to extend its production cuts. While oil demand in Europe and the United States continues to disappoint, refiners in Asia are racing to procure crude from around the world, giving the oil market some hope that at least in one region, demand is strengthening in the fourth quarter.  

Meanwhile in India, petrol and diesel prices rose for the first time in nearly two months. Petrol price rose 17 paise per litre and diesel price surged 22 paise, according to Indian Oil Corporation. With this increase, petrol is being sold at Rs 81.23 a litre while diesel is at Rs 70.68 a litre in Delhi. While the last revision done to the petrol prices was on September 22, the diesel rates last changed on October 2. 

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