A House for Mr Biswas

30 basis points

 

What is it? The cut in home loan rates by some banks, especially for affordable housing.

Why is it important? The cuts by Housing Development Finance Corp (HDFC), ICICI Bank, and LIC Housing Finance, follow that by State Bank of India (SBI). The rate cut is for loans upto Rs 30 lakh, which is applicable for low-cost and affordable housing. The rates look to capitalise on the government’s thrust on affordable housing projects as in seen in this year’s budget measures.

Tell me more: Earlier this year, there were wider cuts in home loan rates, with a host of banks passing on the reduced cost of funds.

Rs 18,000 crore

 

What is it? The amount India’s Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) will invest in FY18 in stocks.

Why is it important? The news will boost the stock markets further, even as they rally on monsoon forecast and easing inflation. In FY16, the EPFO had invested 5% of its annual incremental corpus in the markets, and in FY17, 10%. This year it is going to be 15%.

Tell me more: Some of the equity-traded funds it has invested in so far are SBI mutual fund ETFs and UTI mutual fund ETFs.

Rs 34,000 crore

 

What is it? The amount in taxes evaded by companies, according to a fresh list drawn up by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

Why is it important? This is a follow-up investigation of January’s unearthing of 32,000 entities (companies/directors) which used stock price manipulation to avail of the long-term capital gains tax benefit, committing tax fraud. This time Sebi has 11,000 such cases, of penny-stock manipulation, on its hands. It has given the list to the Income Tax department.

Tell me more: The bogus beneficiaries involve inactive or penny stock companies, listed on the bourses. After a series of preferential share allotment, stock splits, share price manipulation, bonus issues and inflated capital base, the beneficiaries exit at jacked-up prices for their one year of LTCG. But cash settlements between such companies and false claimants are likely to scuttle legal persecution.

14,000

 

What is it? The number of confidential files pilfered by an Uber engineer from his former employer Waymo

Why is it important? This is yet another instance of Uber getting into the wrong side of the law. Earlier this year Uber was caught using a secret programme to avoid being caught by government in cities where Uber was operating without full legal clearance. In the latest case, according to a ruling made public, an Uber engineer stole documents pertaining to the Lidar technology from its former employer, the Google-owned Waymo.

Tell me more: The federal judge had ruled that all the files be returned to Waymo and Uber’s work related to lidar be opened to Waymo’s lawyers. Lidar is a laser based sensor that improves self driving cars’ vision significantly.

-3.6%

 

What is it? The percentage by which card transaction volume came down in April 2017 from a month earlier.

Why is it important? It’s an indication that cash transactions are picking up in the country, contrary to the expectations that demonetisation has given an irreversible push to digital transactions.

Tell me more: IMPS (Immediate Payments System), cards, prepaid instruments and mobile banking – all came down by both volume and value in April 2017, from March 2017.

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Digital pink slips

~1000

What is it? The number of senior/mid level Infosys employees who might be asked to leave the company.

Why is it important? It comes on the back of news about layoffs at Wipro and Cognizant, and together they underline the pressure IT majors are facing on business and regulatory fronts. Wipro recently said that if the demand doesn’t improve it might let go of 10% of its employees. Last week, Cognizant announced a voluntary separation programme for directors.

Tell me more: A recent pressure for IT companies came from the visa restrictions imposed by the United States, the sector’s largest source of revenue. Infosys recently announced it would hire about 10,000 employees in the US in the next two years.

181

What is it? The number of wickets taken by cricketer Jhulan Goswami in one day international tournaments.

Why is it important? It makes Goswami the top wicket taker in women’s one day internationals. The position was previously held by Australian bowler Cathryn Fitzpatrick, who held the record for nearly 10 years.

Tell me more: Goswami played a total of 153 matches and bowled 1238.4 overs, against Fitzpatrick’s 109 matches and 1002.5 overs. Goswami claimed the wicket of South Africa’s Raisibe Ntozakhe to break Fitzpatrick’s record. Goswami made her debut in 2002.

 

$40 million

What is it? The amount Vijay Mallya is said to have received from Diageo in February last year.

Why is it important?  In violation of Supreme Court directions to use the money to repay loans, Mallya allegedly transferred the amount to his children. The court now holds him guilty of contempt and has directed him to appear before it on July 10. Mallya is facing cases for default of about Rs 9000 crore in loans to various banks, and is in United Kingdom at present.

Tell me more: Efforts are on to extradite Mallya from UK. Enforcement Directorate is making an additional case for extradition on the evidence of money laundering.

 

277,000

What is it? The number of passenger vehicles sold in April in India, according to Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.

Why is it important? This is up 15% from 242,000 vehicles sold in April 2016, indicating that the impact of demonesation is wearing off. Analysts believe that the pent up demand could push automobile sales further during rest of the year.

Tell me more: Passenger cars (excluding SUVs and vans) sales went up 17.36% to 190,000 units April, largely driven by compact cars. Buyers picked up 7.34% more two wheelers in April compared to year ago period. However, commercial vehicles and three wheeler sales dropped.

 

$1,747.89

What is it? The close price of cryptocurrency Bitcoin on BitStamp platform on Tuesday.

Why is it important? Crossing the $1700 mark is an important milestone for Bitcoin, which continues to face skepticism from several quarters. The currency hit its all time high by surging over 80% in value since the beginning of this year. Starting April, Bitcoins became a legal tender in Japan, where it is trading at $1835 a coin.

Tell me more: As Bitcoin’s price surge in the market, businesses increasingly see more value in blockchain, the currency’s underlying technology.

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Less cashless?

449

What is it? The number of times Pakistan violated ceasefire across the Line of Control in 2016, according to India’s Home Ministry.

Why is it important? It’s up from 405 violations in 2015, indicating that on average Pakistan has been violating ceasefire at least once everyday in the last two years. Last week, Pakistani forces crossed the LoC in Poonch district in Jammu and Kashmir to kill two Indian soldiers and mutilate their bodies.

Tell me more: 236 security personnel were killed between 2012 and 2016, 23 of them in the last two years, according to a response by Home Ministry to a Right to information query.

 

4%

What is it? The target inflation rate – within a tolerated band of 2-6% – for Reserve Bank of India, according to RBI Act.

Why is it important? RBI governor Urjit Patel is reportedly taking a hawkish stand and keep the inflation below 4%, rather than be flexible with the band. It’s in conflict with the expectations of market players, who believe targeting a rate within the band (closer to 6% rather than 4%) could help push growth.

Tell me more: Retail inflation stood at 3.81% in March, but water shortages in many parts of the country could push inflation rate higher in the coming months.

 

Rs 2259 billion

What is it? The amount of cash withdrawn from ATMs in March.

Why is it important? This is marginally higher than the cash withdrawn in March last year, and raises questions about one of the stated goals of demonetisation – reduce India’s reliance on cash – announced in November last year. However, some part of cash withdrawals could be because of the pent-up demand (the limits on cash withdrawals were removed only on March 13th), and not be an indicator of a long term trend.

Tell me more: Demonetisation, which sucked out 86% of cash in circulation, has impacted GDP growth adversely, especially informal sector which is more dependent on cash.

 

66%

What is it? The percentage of votes won by Emmanuel Macron in the French presidential elections

Why is it important? The French elections were keenly watched from across the world because it is seen as a bigger ideological fight between the far right and centrists. Brexit (the referendum that voted for UK to leave European Union) and election of Donald Trump were seen as a victory for the far-right, raising concerns that the world is getting too nationalistic. However, with the electoral loss of the far-right right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, the fears appear to be abating.

Tell me more: At 39, Macron is the youngest ever French president. An ex-banker, he is pro-business and pro-European Union, and his victory has strengthened Euro against the dollar.

 

2 hours 25 seconds

What is it? The time Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge took to complete Breaking2 marathon at the Monza Formula One racetrack in Italy on Saturday.

Why is it important? Kipchoge was aiming for a two-hour marathon, which in the running world, occupies the same place that four minute mile did once upon a time. (It was broken by Roger Bannister on May 6, 1954.) While Kipchoge failed to make it by just 26 seconds, he still set a new standard for marathon, running faster than the present record holder Dennis Kimetto who ran 26.2 miles in2:02:57.

Tell me more: However, the attempt, sponsored by shoemaker Nike, will not go down as official world record because of the use of pacers and mopeds to give drinks to runners. Kipchoge and his fellow runners ran in Nike’s new, controversial Vaporfly Elite shoes.

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IITs and unicorns

Rs 21,000

What is it? The wage ceiling for mandatory Employees’ Provident Fund coverage that the central government is considering. It’s Rs 15,000 at present.

Why is it important?  The move will bring 6 million more employees under the mandatory social security plan which includes PG, pension and insurance, with each employee contributing 12% of salary monthly to the EPF. Those in the organised sector, earning upwards of the salary, can opt in voluntarily. The cost to the Union government would be an extra Rs 1,617 crore at Rs 5,659 crore a year. According to last reported numbers, the PF portion of the corpus was Rs 360,000 crore.

Tell me more: The EPFO had suggested a threshold increase to Rs 25,000 but it would have raised cost to government by Rs 2,708 crore.

 

Rs 6.24 crore

What is it? The total value of fake Indian currencies seized by various law enforcement forces after demonetisation and introduction of new notes in November, 2016.

Why is it important? Following reports of fake currencies flooding the market after demonetisation, some replicating crucial security features on the new Rs 2,000 notes, the government reassured they were still easily identifiable and furnished the seized numbers as proof. The volume of fake notes exceed thousands.

Tell me more: In a Rajya Sabha reply, the home ministry also assured demonetisation of the new currency notes was not on the cards.

 

500,000 tonne

What is it? The volume of raw sugar that was allowed to be imported duty-free.

Why is it important? This is over 3% of the sugar production in the October-February (full year: Oct-Sep) period of 2016-17 marketing year. Sugar cane supply hit by drought in the major producing states of Maharashtra and Karnataka has led to a fall of 19% compared to 2015-16, leading to the import.

Tell me more: The move will raise global sugar prices given India’s status as the second-largest sugar producer and an exporter till last season.

 

12

What is it? The number of unicorns founded by alumni of Indian Institutes of Technology, according to a report by UK software firm, Sage.

Why is it important? That ranks IITs fourth in the list, after Stanford (51 unicorns), Harvard (37) and University of California (18). For long, IITs were criticised for not producing enough entrepreneurs, but that has been changing in the last few years. According to one count, 60% of all startups that have Series A venture funding have founders from IIT/IIM. Set up as engineering training institutes, IITs have been expanding their scope over years, and now plan to offer MBBS courses as well, starting with IIT Kharagpur.

 

Tell me more: Massachusetts Institute of Technology & University of Pennsylvania which follow IITs in the list have lead to nine unicorns each. Unlike others in the list, IITs are a group of institutions, having over 60,000 students all campuses put together. Stanford has about 16,000 students, Harvard, 22000  and MIT 11,000.

 

$3.6 billion

What is it? The investment Indian Railways will need to achieve a solar energy target of 5GW by 2025, according to a study by Council on Energy, Environment and Water.

Why is it important? Railways is a big consumer of electricity, and its move to solar will help India in achieving its larger renewables energy target, besides helping with its INDC commitment of 40% non-fossil fuel installed power capacity. Railways uses close to 2.4% of the country’s total electricity consumption, and it’s growing at 5% a year.

Tell me more: The report estimates that 1.1GW of 5GW would come from rooftop and the rest from utility scale projects. Railways has an installed capacity of 16 MW of solar as of March 2017, and has is in the process of commissioning 255 MW of rooftop solar projects.

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