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Last Week In Indian Economy - For the Week Ending 6th August, 2016

Last Week in Indian Economy

“I am silent because there is conflict between my scholarly commitment to economics and my loyalty to the party's decided issues.” - Subramanian Swamy, member of parliament tweeting about why he is silent on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill that his political party supports so much. Just going to leave this here for you to draw your own conclusions.

Headline Stories

Going Gaga Over GST
Last week, the Rajya Sabha passed the Goods and Services Tax (GST) - the tax reform that has been heralded as the most important piece of legislation in over a decade. While the common market of Europe is walking backwards due to Brexit, the common market within India is stepping ahead due to GST. The bill has been the subject of political bickering for a long time now. However, it was passed with 203 votes for and none against. With 0 votes against. They didn’t even blink twice, so you know there families weren’t being held hostage and all votes were entirely voluntary. But this has only been the tip of the iceberg. Even though both houses of the parliament have passed the bill, there is a laundry list of things that need to happen before we can all go home and forget about this whole GST business. The Lok Sabha needs to approve the bill once again. Then, a minimum of 15 state governments need to pass the bill. Then, the president needs to sign the bill. Then, a GST Council needs to be formed and the GST tax rate needs to be negotiated. Then, the central government needs to pass two supporting laws, and each state needs to pass a separate supporting law. And only then, we’ll be able to pocket all that cash from the GST-led economic growth that is being predicted. The deadline set for all of this is April 1st, 2017. Till then, government officials around the country are set to debate on extremely sensitive issues like whether cream biscuits should be taxed at the same rate as ordinary biscuits. #TeamBourbon.
Uber joined the long list of American MNCs that came to do business in China but inevitably fell on their faces. In a deal announced last week, the popular ride-hailing service will sell its China operations to rival Didi Chuxing in exchange for a 20% stake in Didi, who will invest $1 billion in Uber. The two giants have been battling for the Chinese market for years and despite spending billions of dollars, no one has managed to turn a profit. In fact, Uber was facing a loss of $1 billion annually due to heavy competition in China. Once upon a time, Uber’s future in China seemed to hold promise. And now, the company is throwing in the towel. The company’s mistake? It tried to fight a land war in Asia. Although Didi was the bigger company in China in terms of market share, Uber did have its moments. Such as when a Chinese hip-hop artist posted a gangster rap song about how much he prefers Uber. Don’t Baidu it - China being China censored the whole thing just days later.
Loans For Pani Puri walas
Banks use all sorts of fancy algorithms to determine if a borrower will repay a loan. Despite all of that, with the banking crisis, a huge amount of loans are at a risk of being Vijay Mallya-ed. So the fancy algorithms haven’t exactly worked out. Another one of those fancy things that banks use is a credit score. A good credit score will have banks lining outside your door shouting for your attention. A bad credit score will have you lining outside the door of the banks with a ton of paperwork. You need a good credit score to get loans. But to get a good credit score, you need to repay loans. So you see the chicken-and-egg problem here. This means a lot of people don’t even have credit scores. But those people still need loans. And banks won’t touch them with a ten-foot pole. Now, microfinance companies like Edelweiss, Bharat Financial, DHFL and many more are going places feared by the big boys of finance. A big push in the industry is to loan money to pavement hawkers, scrap dealers and other self-employed individuals. For example - the makers of the extremely healthy chinese food at the hand-kart that parks near the local sewer every evening. Basically, giving loans to low-income borrowers without a credit score or any kind of formal financial history. If that sounds like a recipe for trouble, that’s because it is and we’ve already had that dish in the run-up of the financial crisis of 2008. And if history isn’t repeating itself here, it’s definitely rhyming.
Too Many Branches Spoil The Bank
The State Bank Of India has almost 17,000 branches which is very impressive. Especially since they get to brag about it in tables that rank banks by number of branches. But the bank isn’t doing itself any favours by putting 5 branches within a 1 km radius of each other, as is the case a lot of times with SBI. Because sometimes, it’s not the size that matters, it’s what you do with it that matters. And SBI is considering a proposal to do away with such extra branches by consolidating them. It might make common sense to shut down branches when put like that, but then they won’t get to brag about how many branches they have. And investors love those kind of things. SBI is currently in the process of merging with its associate banks from Hyderabad, Mysore, Travancore and so on. It expects to have that completed by March 2017. At which point, that 17,000 number will balloon up to 24,000 branches, compounding that problem. A global consulting firm, McKinsey which was hired by SBI has recommended shutting down upto of 7,200 of those branches. Moreover, bank branches are so 2000s. Online is where it’s at.

Sidebar Stories

  • India is a nation of chronic procrastinators. Just look at how much you procrastinate yourself, for example. For more proof, realize that half the people reading that last sentence just strongly agreed with it. And so the government extended the deadline to file Income Tax returns by 5 days till August 5th to accommodate all the last-minute submissions.
  • 23 million income tax returns were filed online this year, more than thrice the 7 million that were filed last year. Like I said, online is where it’s at. Moreover, who would want to stand in line to file tax returns when you can be a responsible and mature citizen of India while wearing your pajamas at the same time?
  • Corruption watchdog Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has asked the IIM-A and other premier business schools in India to develop an ‘integrity index’ to measure the levels of corruptions in 25 government agencies and state-run companies. The CVC is hoping that the rankings will help focus anti-corruption resources to where they are needed the most. Meanwhile, Buzzfeed “writers” are already salivating at the thought of headlines like Here are the top 10 most corrupt government offices. #6 will literally empty your wallet.
  • A new survey published last week found that Indians are losing more money to online fraud than other Asians. While 36% of Indian respondents reported to being cheated by internet scams, the most popular form of internet scams turned out to be lottery scams and Work-from-home scams. In other news, find out how this housewife is earning 50,000 a month sitting at home.

Market Movements

Let’s do the numbers. Since last week:
  • BSE Sensex: ↓ 0.02%
    Week Open: 28,083.08
    Week End: 28,078.35
  • Nifty: ↑ 0.33%
    Week Open: 8,654.30
    Week End: 8,683.15
  • Gold prices: ↓ 1.58%
    Week Open: 31,549
    Week End: 31,050
  • USD / INR: ↑ 0.15%
    Week Open: 66.764
    Week End: 66.842
Stocks that moved heaven and earth:
  • HCL Technologies (HCLTECH) was up 8.98% on the back of positive quarterly results and a single large trade of about 14 lakh shares that pushed the stock price up.
  • Grasim Industries (GRASIM) was up 7.28% as the Birla-family owned cement maker was identified as one of the companies set to benefit from GST.
  • Tata Steel (TATASTEEL) was up 6.92% since the government extended a price floor on cheap imports of steel from China.
The yield on 10-year government bonds is up from 7.138 to 7.168.

Up Next

Important Numbers being released this week:
Tuesday, August 9th: RBI Interest Rate Decision, Quarterly Results for - Adani Ports & SEZ, Lupin
Wednesday, August 10th: Quarterly Results for - Mahindra & Mahindra
Friday, August 12th: Consumer Inflation (Jul), Quarterly Results for - Hindalco Industries, State Bank Of India

Footnote Stories

Leading bitcoin exchange, Bitfinex, was hacked last week and cryptocurrency worth $70 million was stolen. The exchange has announced a plan to compensate all customers. In other words, business as usual for bitcoin.
Moon Express, a US-based company co-founded by Indian-origin entrepreneur Naveen Jain, became the first ever private company to receive permission from the US government for a commercial space mission to the moon. The company’s business plan involves accepting sponsorships and carrying private payloads to the moon in order to make a profit. In future space missions, the company expects to make money by mining for natural resources on moon, specifically mining for Helium-3. This would’ve happened a lot sooner if only the moon had some oil. Helium-3 is all fine... But it’s no oil.
< For the Week Ending 30th July, 2016
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