What is it? Nikkei’s Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) in January, a composite indicator of India’s manufacturing activity based on a survey by Markit, a financial information and services company.
Why is it important? This has jumped to a four-month high after touching the lowest in 28 months in December (49.1). This is also above the 50-level threshold, an indication that manufacturing, which accounts for 16% of India’s gross domestic product (GDP), could be on the revival path. This strengthens the expectation that the Reserve Bank of India will keep key rates unchanged on Tuesday when it announces its sixth bimonthly monetary policy review.
Tell me more: The new export orders sub-index increased to 52.5 in January from 51.5 in December, the highest in five months.
What is it? Increase in global corn prices since January 13.
Why is it important? An impact of India importing corn for the first time in 16 years. It has announced plans to buy half a million tonnes, and according to traders, might import 1.5 million to 2 million tonnes of corn. Two consecutive droughts and growing demand from India’s 1.25 billion population is likely to force India to import other commodities such as lentils and oilmeals. This is likely to transform the country into a net importer of some of the commodities for the first time in years. India needs to step up investment and other measures to ensure agriculture grows at a faster pace than the 2% recorded in the first half of 2015-16.
Tell me more: Agriculture accounts for around 13% of India’s GDP and two-thirds of the country’s population depend on it for their livelihoods.
Rs 3 lakh
What is it? The proposed annual fee hike for the students of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) by a committee of the institutes’ directors. This would be over a threefold increase from the current Rs 90,000 annual fees charged per student.
Why is it important? The fee hike is one of the two main measures suggested by the panel to provide greater financial autonomy to the IITs and is enough to cover the salary and maintenance costs. The other suggestion is to create a non-banking financial company (NBFC) with a corpus of Rs 2,000 crore, which would offer interest-free loans to students (from IITs and other higher education institutes) for projects and research infrastructure.
Tell me more: These proposals are being considered and could be part of the budgetary announcements later this month.
What is it? Total number of public health emergencies declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) so far, the latest one being the Zika virus.
Why is it important? There is no treatment or vaccine for the virus, which is suspected to cause birth defects (microcephaly) where babies are born with abnormally small heads, underdeveloped brains and usually die young. Though the virus (caused by the same mosquito as dengue) has spread in 24 countries in the Americas region, one-third of the world’s population lives in areas at risk of dengue infection (Africa, India, Southeast Asia and Latin America).
Tell me more: Brazil, the worst affected nation, has reported over 3,700 cases of microcephaly and according to the country’s health minister, in 80% of the infected people, there were no symptoms. It has reported at least 1.5 million cases of Zika infection. Elsewhere, Tata Motors is now considering changing the name of its new small car, Zica for fear of the negative association with the virus.
What is it? Valuation of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.
Why is it important? Alphabet is the most valuable traded company in the world today, dislodging Apple ($535 billion) from that position. This is not the first time, though. Google was ahead of Apple in 2010. This comes after Alphabet announcing its fourth quarter earnings where it posted a profit of $4.9 billion from $4.7 billion a year ago.
Tell me more: This is the first time the company has given separate figures for its Google business (includes search engine and YouTube) and “Other Bets” businesses (include experimental projects such as self-driving cars, internet balloon programs). The latter posted an operating loss of $3.6 billion and revenue of $448 million in 2015. Google’s revenue in 2015 was $74.5 billion while its operating income increased by 23% to $23.4 billion.