WTO revises upwards trade growth forecast for 2021

NEW DELHI: Geneva-based World Trade Organization (WTO) on Wednesday revised upwards the growth forecast of global merchandise trade in 2021 to 8 per cent after recording a fall of 5.3 per cent last year, amid Covid-19 pandemic.
It said that prospects for a quick recovery in world trade have improved as merchandise trade expanded more rapidly than expected in the second half of last year.
“According to new estimates from the WTO, the volume of world merchandise trade is expected to increase by 8 per cent in 2021 after having fallen 5.3 per cent in 2020, continuing its rebound from the pandemic-induced collapse that bottomed out in the second quarter of last year,” it said in a statement.
It added that trade growth should then slow to 4 per cent in 2022, and the effects of the pandemic will continue to be felt as this pace of expansion would still leave trade below its pre-pandemic trend.
Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said, “Keeping international markets open will be essential for economies to recover from this crisis and a rapid, global and equitable vaccine roll-out is a prerequisite for the strong and sustained recovery we all need.”
In October 2020, the WTO has estimated that the global merchandise trade would record a growth of 7.2 per cent.

Investors’ wealth rises over Rs 90.82L cr in FY21

NEW DELHI: Investors’ wealth grew massively by Rs 90,82,057.95 crore in 2020-21 driven by an extraordinary rally in the equity market, where the benchmark sensex jumped 68 per cent.
In an unprecedented rally, the 30-share BSE sensex jumped 20,040.66 points or 68 per cent this fiscal year, braving many uncertainties due to Covid-19-led disruptions.
Market analysts termed 2020-21 a roller coaster ride for not only Indian markets but also for equity indices globally due to the pandemic.
But with markets making a comeback towards the latter part of the fiscal year, investors were rewarded with high returns.
Thanks to the improved investor sentiment, the market capitalisation of BSE-listed companies zoomed Rs 90,82,057.95 crore to reach Rs 2,04,30,814.54 crore in 2020-21.
On March 3 this year, the market capitalisation of BSE-listed companies had reached its lifetime high of Rs 2,10,22,227.15 crore.
“The bull-run got further strength with the progressive unlocking and sharp rebound in the economy. Discovery of vaccines and optimism it generated gave further strength to the bulls. Globally, markets witnessed a huge rally in November. Emerging markets continued to be flooded with FPI money,” V K Vijayakumar, Chief Investment Strategist at Geojit Financial Services, said.
The BSE index closed 627.43 points or 1.25 per cent lower at 49,509.15 on the last day of trade of fiscal year 2020-21 on Wednesday.
From witnessing massive losses to record-breaking gains, investors witnessed a wide array of emotions in 2020-21.
The remarkable rally in the markets is significant as equities had gone into a tailspin in March 2020, with the sensex sinking a massive 8,828.8 points or 23 per cent during that month as concerns over the pandemic’s impact on the economy ravaged investor sentiments.
The BSE barometer had plummeted 9,204.42 points or 23.80 per cent in 2019-20.
“Markets have truly seen one of the best recoveries in FY’21 led by easing restrictions, strong global cues and government support. However, in terms of returns, we had seen a similar recovery post the global financial crisis in FY’10 (~74%) and FY’04 (~81%). But considering the markets witnessed a sharp fall in a very short duration, this recovery has been remarkable,” said Ajit Mishra, VP Research, Religare Broking.
The benchmark Sensex hit record highs multiple times during this financial year. The frontline index had closed above the 50,000-mark for the first time ever on February 3 this year, mainly driven by euphoria over the Union Budget. It closed above the 51,000-mark on February 8.
The index rallied over the 52,000-mark for the first time on February 15.
A number of main board initial public offerings during the fiscal year, with many of them receiving massive subscription, including MTAR Technologies, Burger King India and Mrs Bectors Food Specialities, also added to improved market sentiments.
The year 2020-21 saw most of the IPOs opening with a premium over the issue price suggesting strong investors appetite.
Reliance Industries is the country’s most valued firm with a market capitalisation of Rs 12,69,917.01 crore, followed by Tata Consultancy Services (Rs 11,75,410.56 crore), HDFC Bank (Rs 8,23,360.73 crore), Infosys (Rs 5,82,751.89 crore) and Hindustan Unilever (Rs 5,71,132.95 crore) in the top five order.
“With the financial year ending, investors would now focus on upcoming quarterly results which would kick-start from mid-April. Domestically, concerns over the fast spreading 2nd wave of Covid-19 in India continues to remain and the fear of possible lockdowns prevail.
“Overall markets are likely to remain in a consolidative mode for some time awaiting fresh positive triggers,” Siddhartha Khemka, Head – Retail Research, Motilal Oswal Financial Services said.

AAI to levy fines on Covid norm violators at airports

NEW DELHI: The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has decided to levy fines on travellers violating Covid norms at its airports.
The state-run authority, that operates about 70 airports in India including those in the metros of Kolkata and Chennai, did not specify the amount of fine it will levy at different places.
“We will be levying fines on those not observing Covid protocol as per as per AAI Management Regulations 2003,” said AAI spokesman J B Singh.
While AAI did not give the fine amount, the “penalties” section under its management regulations 2003 notification says, “Any person contravening any provisions.. shall be punishable with fine which may extend to Rs 500…”
Singh added the authority is also going to clearly state at all airport entry points — “no mask, no entry” — and is making it mandatory for all concessionaires that include food, beverage and other retail outlets at its airports to refuse serving passengers without masks.
He listed the steps AAI is taking to increase awareness for Covid protocol at airports: “Standees shall be placed at all entry gates (stating) ‘no mask -no entry.’ All concessionaires shall mandatorily place standees next to their counters highlighting ‘no mask – no service’.”
Additionally, Singh said meetings are being held with all stakeholders and airlines to avoid congestion.
“AAI and CISF staff may be deployed on duty for creating awareness. A team may be constituted (at each airport) to carry out regular inspection on city side and terminal building to ensure implementation of the instructions regarding COVID-19 protocol,” he added.
Bangalore Airport told TOI on Tuesday wilful violators inside Bangalore Airport terminal building who refuse to wear masks despite being requested to do so will be either denied boarding or be evicted from the terminal.
Bangalore International Airport Ltd (BIAL) spokesperson said it is levying a fine of Rs 250 under state government rules on Covid norm violators outside the terminal building — like those coming to drop or receive passengers or those in car parking.
“So far, 16 people in the airport premises (outside terminal building) have been fined for not adhering to the government order,” she said.
Union aviation minister H S Puri had on Tuesday warned, saying: “Advisory issued to all airports to ensure compliance of Covid-19 Protocol. People must wear face masks (covering nose and mouth) and maintain social distance. We are moving in direction of punitive action by police against passengers who don’t comply.”
Accordingly, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Tuesday directed all airport operators to explore “the possibility of taking punitive action, such as levy of spot fines… so as to serve a deterrent for violation of Covid-19 protocol.”
The DGCA conducted surprise checks at several airports in past few days to see how the local managements, security and other agencies were tackling this issue.
“During surveillance of some airports, it has come to notice that compliance is not satisfactory. All airport operators, therefore, are requested to ensure that the instructions on Covid-19 protocol of wearing face masks properly, covering nose and mouth, as well as maintaining social distance norms within airport premises are followed scrupulously,” the DGCA circular said.

Govt infuses Rs 14,500cr capital into four PSBs

NEW DELHI: The government has infused Rs 14,500 crore, mainly into banks that are under the RBI’s prompt corrective action framework to improve their financial health.
Indian Overseas Bank, Central Bank of India and UCO Bank are currently under this framework that puts several restrictions on them, including on lending, management compensation and directors’ fees.
Of the total infusion, Rs 11,500 crore has gone to these three banks while the remaining Rs 3,000 crore has been infused into Bank of India.
According to a government notification, Rs 4,800 crore has been provided to Central Bank of India, Rs 4,100 crore to Indian Overseas Bank and Kolkata-based UCO Bank has got Rs 2,600 crore.
The capital infusion will help these banks to come out of the Reserve Bank of India‘s prompt corrective action framework.
The fund infusion has been done through non-interest bearing recapitalisation bonds with maturity varying between March 31, 2031 and March 31, 2036.
The investment in the special securities by public sector banks would not be considered as an eligible investment which is required to made in government securities in pursuance of any statutory provisions or directions applicable to the investing bank, it said.
Most of the large state-owned lenders — including State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank, Bank of Baroda, Canara Bank, Union Bank of India, and Indian Bank — have already raised money from various market sources, including share sale on a private placement basis.
For the current financial year, the government had allocated Rs 20,000 crore for capital infusion into the public sector banks for meeting regulatory requirements.
Punjab & Sind Bank was given Rs 5,500 crore in November last year.
Separately, Central Bank of India and Bank of India informed stock exchanges about the fund infusion by the government.

A Roaring 20s economic rebound for Canada depends on these things

Brianna Davies and her family were on a “bucket list” vacation to South Africa during March break in 2020 when it was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Trudeau told Canadians to come home and the South African government declared a state of national disaster. There was so much speculation and uncertainty at that time so we packed up and came home,” she told Global News.

It’s been more than a year since then, and Davies says she’s going to adopt a new outlook when things return to some semblance of normal.

“I’m going to say yes more to quality time with my good friends, family, travel and eating out at restaurants,” she said.

Toronto resident Brianna Davies and family on vacation in South Africa in March 2020. Photo supplied

Davies is like the majority of Canadians who have continued to earn money during the pandemic but have been saving like never before. COVID-19 restrictions have left approximately 40 per cent of workers worse off financially, according to a survey from  FP Canada, a national organization of financial planners, published earlier this month. That means the majority of Canadians are in better shape finance-wise. TD Bank estimates collective savings reached a record $200 billion in 2020.

Story continues below advertisement

Click to play video: 'Pandemic leaves Canadians either seeking help or with extra cash' Pandemic leaves Canadians either seeking help or with extra cash

Pandemic leaves Canadians either seeking help or with extra cash – Mar 9, 2021

Restrictions on travel and leisure activities leave fewer things to spend money on. Much of that money has instead flowed into the stock market, been used to pay down debt or to renovate or purchase a home. TD Bank Senior Economist Sri Thanabalasingam estimates that “closer to $100 billion” is waiting to be spent. When and if deployed, that would be an enormous boost to the Canadian economy.

Read more: Here’s where Canadians spent the most money during COVID-19 pandemic

Many economists have surmised that pent-up demand for social interaction, combined with a historic amount of savings, could fuel an economic bump reminiscent of the Roaring 20s. That era of social and financial cutting loose came after the deadly 1918 flu pandemic. The similarities between then and now are striking: the stock market was soaring and people felt the urge to live life to the fullest and spend money.

Story continues below advertisement

Female flappers dance while musicians perform in 1926. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In the Conference Board of Canada’s March report “Hope At Last,” the forecast for 2021 includes an economic surge the likes of which we haven’t seen since 2007, during the financial crisis.

Thanabalasingam predicts a big pick-up when restrictions lift across the country, likely starting in the second half of this year and continuing until early next year. That economic rebound could translate to GDP growth of six-to-seven per cent in the last two quarters of this year, he says. But his forecast is dependent on the pace of the vaccine rollout as well as the impact of the more contagious COVID-19 variants.

Click to play video: 'Science director of Ontario COVID-19 Advisory table issues stern warnings about third wave variants' Science director of Ontario COVID-19 Advisory table issues stern warnings about third wave variants

Science director of Ontario COVID-19 Advisory table issues stern warnings about third wave variants

He says that in late 2020 and early 2021, the easing of restrictions resulted in “very strong” consumer spending, based on debit and credit card data from TD. After weakening in December and January when Ontario and Quebec entered lockdown there was a “solid rebound” in February when restrictions began to lift.

Story continues below advertisement

A sudden increase in demand for goods and services after months of low or non-existent demand is bound to create headaches for certain supply chains, as evidenced by what’s already happening in the U.S. Thanabalasingam warns Canadian shoppers to brace for potential shortages. Bike parts and semiconductor chips are already in short supply. A frenzy of shoppers could squeeze other items too.

Read more: Want to buy a car? The semiconductor chip shortage could affect your selection and price

And after months of tame inflation and a roller-coaster ride for the Canadian economy, which began with an unprecedented plunge a year ago at the onset of the pandemic, there are signs that inflation could flare-up. Historically, as countries emerge from recessions and gross domestic product (GDP) climbs, inflation eventually kicks in although it lags economic gains.

Thanabalasingam says that an initial spurt of inflation could alarm shoppers and make them change their buying habits, thus stoking further inflation.

Read more: From furniture to toilet paper, Canadians warned of shortages, price hikes amid trade logjams

“If you think that prices are going to be higher tomorrow for a specific product compared to today, you may react by buying that product today,” he says. “If everyone kind of does the same thing, there’s an increase in demand and supply necessarily may not be there. This leads to inflationary pressures.” He describes the phenomenon as a “self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Story continues below advertisement

There are a lot of moving parts that could feed into the timing, size and longevity of the recovery, including further aid from the federal government. As well as the ripple effect from the nearly US$2 trillion in stimulus approved south of the Canadian border.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Biden tells Americans they must beat the virus to get economy running' Coronavirus: Biden tells Americans they must beat the virus to get economy running

Coronavirus: Biden tells Americans they must beat the virus to get economy running – Mar 11, 2021

Regardless of when the end of the pandemic — and the green light to resume regular social interactions — arrives, Davies says she’s already planning for it.

Davies on a family trip to Paris in 2019. Photo supplied

“I really rely on travel as an escape. Not just the actual trip, but planning the trip and looking forward to it gets me through a lot of stressful long days,” Davies says. “I’m super aware of the things I missed during this time and the things that are most important to my family.”


© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

LPG refill to be cheaper by Rs 10 from April 1

NEW DELHI: Household cooking gas refills, commonly known as LPG cylinders, will become cheaper by Rs10 from tomorrow as a result of recent softening in the fuel’s international rate.
According to state-owned IndianOil, the country’s largest fuel retailer, a 14.2 kg domestic LPG cylinder will cost about Rs 809 from April 1 in Delhi and Mumbai. In Kolkata, a refill will cost Rs 835.50 and Rs 825 in Chennai.
This is the first reduction in four months. Refill prices had gone up cumulatively by Rs 175 since December. The prices were raised four times, totalling Rs 125, since February-end. The prices were hiked first by Rs 25 per cylinder on February 4, followed by Rs 50 on February 15, Rs 25 on February 25 and again by Rs 25 on March 2.
Consumers have to pay the market price and the government is supposed to give subsidy to eligible domestic consumers. But successive increase in prices over the last couple of years erased subsidy in metros and major cities.
Executives at state-run fuel retailers said a small subsidy is paid to customers in remote and far-flung areas to compensate for higher freight charges.
Prices of crude and products such as LPG softened in the second fortnight of March as a resurgence in Covid-19 infections in major economies, including India, the world’s third-largest oil consumer, subdued hopes of early recovery in demand.
In step with cooling oil prices, state-run fuel retailers, who dominate 90% of the market, also reduced petrol and diesel by 60 paise per litre in the last few days.

Govt slashes interest rates on PPF, other small saving schemes

NEW DELHI: The government on Wednesday slashed interest rates on small saving schemes, including public provident fund (PPF) and national savings certificate (NSC) for the first quarter (Q1) of financial year 2021 with effect from April 1.
In an official notification, the finance ministry said: “In exercise of the powers conferred by Rule 9(1) of the Government Savings Promotion General Rules, 2018 the rates of interest on various small savings schemes for the Q1 of FY 2021-22 have been revised.”
Accordingly, interest rate of PPF have been reduced from 7.1 per cent to 6.4 per cent. While, that on NSC has been slashed to 5.9 per cent from 6.8 per cent earlier.
The new interest rate on PPF will be the lowest since 1974. According to reports, the PPF interest rate was 7 per cent between August 1974 and March 1975. Prior to that, the rate was 5.8 per cent.
The girl child savings scheme Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana will offer 6.9 per cent interest rate as against a rate of 7.5 per cent earlier.
Interest rates for small savings schemes are notified by the ministry of finance on a quarterly basis.
The revised rates will come into effect from April 1 and remain effective till June 30, 2021.
For the first time interest rate on savings deposits has been reduced by 0.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent from the existing 4 per cent annually.
The steepest fall of 1.1 per cent has been effected in the one-year term deposit. The new rate will be 4.4 per cent as compared to 5.5 per cent at the moment.
Similarly, two-year fixed deposit will earn 0.5 per cent less at 5 per cent, three-year term deposit rate will be down by 0.4 per cent and five- year term deposit rate will be lower by 0.9 per cent at 5.8 per cent.
The annual interest rate on Kisan Vikas Patra (KVP) has been reduced by 0.7 per cent to 6.2 per cent from 6.9 per cent.
The Centre had kept interest rates unchanged since the past three quarters. In April-June 2020, it had cut rates by about 70-140 bps.
While announcing the quarterly setting of interest rates in 2016, the finance ministry had said that rates of small savings schemes would be linked to government bond yields.
Last month, the RBI kept interest rates static for the fourth time in a row at 4 per cent on inflationary concerns.
(With inputs from agencies)

Deadline for linking Aadhaar-PAN card extended

NEW DELHI: The government on Wednesday extended the deadline for linking of Aadhaar with permanent account number (PAN) by three months.
In a tweet, the income tax department informed that the last date has been extended from March 31 to June 30, 2021.

The decision has been taken after many people reported technical glitches on the income tax website while linking the Aadhaar and PAN card number.
The government has already extended the deadline several times in the past as well.
In June last year, the I-T department had extended the last date for linking PAN-Aadhaar from July 31, 2020 to March 31, 2021 in view of the challenges faced by people due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Aadhaar is 12-digit identification number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to a resident of India. While, PAN is a 10-digit alphanumeric number allotted by the I-T department to a person, firm or entity.
As per data available, till August last year 32.71 crore PANs were linked to the biometric ID. The total PAN allotment as on June 29, 2020, stood at 50.95 crore.
The government has already made quoting of Aadhaar mandatory for filing income tax returns (ITRs) as well as obtaining a new PAN.
In addition, the Centre has also extended date for issue of equalisation levy statement till April 30.
“Date for issue of notice under section 148 of Income-tax Act,1961, passing of consequential order for direction issued by the Dispute Resolution Panel (DRP) & processing of equalisation levy statements also extended to 30th April, 2021,” it said.

Dollarama ramps up plans to add stores in Canada despite tough 4th quarter

Dollarama Inc. remained bullish on the future of the discount chain in Canada even as its profits slipped amid higher costs and restrictions related to the pandemic in its latest quarter.

The Montreal-based retailer raised the number of stores it plans to have in Canada to 2,000 within the next decade, a nearly 50 per cent jump compared with its total of 1,356 stores at the end of January.

“Based on our experience, our historical performance and what we see going forward, we feel very confident in raising our long-term store target at this time,” Neil Rossy, Dollarama president and CEO, said on a call with analysts Wednesday morning.

Read more: Nine Dollarama stores in Quebec face fines for COVID-19 safety violations

The new target is up from an earlier goal of 1,700 stores by 2027. The discount retailer also said it plans to increase its quarterly dividend by seven per cent.

Story continues below advertisement

Shares of Dollarama rose about 5.5 per cent in early afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The plan to open new stores across the country continues despite a tough fourth quarter – historically the company’s strongest sales period of the year.

“Our strong sales momentum was interrupted by the introduction of more stringent public health measures in several provinces in the month of December,” Rossy said in a statement. “These stricter measures resulted in an abrupt and sustained decline in store traffic and sales through to fiscal year-end.”

Read more: From furniture to toilet paper, Canadians warned of shortages, price hikes amid trade logjams

In Quebec, where Dollarama operates nearly a third of its stores, retailers were prohibited for much of the winter from selling items deemed nonessential, with some stores cordoning off entire aisles of merchandise.

Though the ban went into effect on Dec. 26, Dollarama chief financial officer Jean-Philippe Towner said on the earnings call that the impact on store traffic began shortly after the announcement of the new restrictions in mid-December.

“The strong sales momentum has returned following the end of some of the COVID-19 restrictions, especially the ban on the sale of non-essential items in Quebec,” Desjardins analyst Chris Li said in a memo.

Story continues below advertisement

The retailer said it earned $173.9 million or 56 cents per diluted share for the quarter ended Jan. 31, down from a profit of $178.7 million or 57 cents per diluted share a year earlier.

Sales in the 13-week period totalled $1.10 billion, up from nearly $1.07 billion. Excluding temporarily closed stores, comparable store sales for the quarter fell 0.2 per cent compared with a year earlier.

Click to play video: 'How the COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping Canada’s economy' How the COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping Canada’s economy

How the COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping Canada’s economy – Mar 9, 2021

Meanwhile, Dollarama’s full-year results showed positive growth, with sales increasing 6.3 per cent to $4.03 million in fiscal 2021.

“We achieved solid results in a truly unprecedented year, which reconfirmed the resilience of our business model and the relevance of our offering to Canadians from all walks of life,” Rossy said in a statement.

Like other retailers, Dollarama has faced rising costs associated with health and sanitation for its workforce. For the last fiscal year, Dollarama invested $84 million in COVID-related measures, Rossy said.

Story continues below advertisement

In January, Quebec’s workplace safety board issued 11 fines to nine Dollarama locations for failing to respect provincial sanitary guidelines. The fines came after Dollarama workers protested last year over what they described as inadequate sanitary measures at the company’s facilities.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

‘Inflation target retained at same level for 5 years’

NEW DELHI: Economic affairs secretary Tarun Bajaj on Wednesday informed that the government’s inflation target has been retained at the same level for the next five years, that is till March 31, 2026.
Under the current dispensation, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has been mandated by the government to maintain retail inflation at 4 per cent with a margin of 2 per cent on either side.
In a bid to keep inflation under specified level, the government in 2016 had decided to set up Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) headed by the RBI governor entrusted with the task of fixing the benchmark policy rate (repo rate).
The six-member panel, which had its first meeting in October 2016, was given the mandate to maintain annual inflation at 4 per cent until March 31, 2021, with an upper tolerance of 6 per cent and lower tolerance of 2 per cent.
In addition, Bajaj unveiled government’s borrowing plan for the first half of the financial year 2022.
The minister said that the Centre will borrow Rs 7.24 lakh crore in the first half of 2021-22 fiscal to meet resources to perk up the economy hit by coronavirus pandemic.
“In the Budget, we had announced that there would be a gross borrowing of Rs 12.05 lakh crore and net borrowing of Rs 9.37 lakh crore. In the first half of 2021-22, we would be borrowing Rs 7.24 lakh crore, which is 60.06 per cent of the gross issuances,” economic affairs secretary said.
On fiscal deficit, Bajaj said that FY21 fiscal deficit will be closer to the revised estimate of 9.5 per cent.
The Union Budget had pegged fiscal deficit at 6.8 per cent for the next fiscal, down from 9.5 per cent of the GDP in the current financial year.
(With inputs from agencies)