News in Numbers, May 19, 2016: Worst quarterly loss by an Indian bank, solved IIT-JEE papers…

Rs 5,367 crore

What is it? Punjab National Bank’s (PNB) net loss in the fourth quarter of 2015-16, compared with a net profit of Rs 307 crore in same period last year.

Why is it important? This is the worst known quarterly loss posted by any bank in India and it is PNB’s first since it went public in 2002. This is a result of the central bank’s direction to banks to reclassify their stressed assets as non-performing assets and points to the extent to which banks have been refusing to acknowledge them as bad loans. The big question now is the price at which the government and the market would recapitalise these banks.

Tell me more: PNB’s gross bad loans increased by around 62.6% to Rs 55,818 crore from the previous quarter and its provisions almost increased three-fold from a year ago to Rs 10,485 crore in the last quarter.


$125.5 million

What is it? India’s exports – mostly pharmaceuticals – to Venezuela as of February 2016

Why is it important? Cash-strapped Venezuela cannot pay for these drugs, impacting Indian drug manufacturers. Indian government has now proposed an oil-for-drugs barter deal with the country.

Tell me more:  Socialist economic model and low oil prices has led to political and social crisis at Venezuela. Its inflation predicted to more than double to 720% in 2016. Dr Reddy’s Laboratories wrote off $65 million in the three months ended to March 2016, almost all of which is owed by Venezuela while Glenmark Pharmaceuticals is short of $45 million.



What is it? The number of years of solved question papers of joint entrance examinations (JEE) that the Indian government and the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) will jointly release soon.

Why is it important? IIT-JEE is considered to be one of the toughest engineering entrance examinations in the world and this move is aimed at making it easier for aspiring students and reduce their dependence on coaching institutes. For this, the government will also make the entrance exam easier by conforming to Standard XII syllabus, which now requires greater proficiency than school levels. Kota, which is known as the coaching capital of India, has seen at least six student suicides this year.

Tell me more: Students can access the exam papers through a soon-to-be launched portal and a mobile app and the content will be available in 13 regional languages. Academicians and IIT faculty members would also give video lectures, which would enable additional learning through the portal and app.


14.8 degree Celsius

What is it? The average global temperature in April, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Why is it important? Breaks yet another set of global temperature records – the hottest April since 1880 (from the time records are available), and the 12th straight month for which a monthly global temperature record has been broken (the longest such streak). Despite just being four months in 2016, there is a more than 99% likelihood of this year being the hottest year on record, indicating that the pace of global warming might be faster than originally thought to be.

Tell me more: If this is true, then 2016 would be the third consecutive year to set a new global heat record, which would also be another first. Global warming’s effects include ice melts, increase of ocean levels, ocean acidification affecting marine life, affect or wipe out some plant and animal species, and drastic weather events.



What is it? The age-adjusted incidence (AAR) of cancer among males in Aizawl district in Mizoram between 2012-14, according to the National Cancer Registry Programme.

Why is it important? This is the highest in India for males. Among females the incidence is the highest in Papumpare district, Arunachal Pradesh with an AAR of 249. In fact, cancer burden in the north-eastern states is among the highest in the world. Granular data like this would help the policy makers and the health specialists in devising intervention specific to a particular geography, thereby making it a more focussed-approach in dealing with cancer burden.

Tell me more: The cancer burden is estimated to be 14.5 lakh new cases of cancer in 2016 and 17.3 lakh new cases in 2020, with breast, lung and cervix as the leading types of the disease. The use of tobacco accounts for less than a third of all cancers in males and females.

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News in numbers, Jan 21, 2016: 2015 the hottest year, Bacha Khan University massacre…


150 million tonnes

What is it? Plastic waste in the oceans currently, according to estimates by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Why is it important? Use of plastics and plastic packaging have negative effects on the environment (degradation of natural systems, greenhouse gas emissions) and human beings (can cause cancer, birth defects, genetic changes). If this trend continues, the report says there would be 1 tonne of plastic for every 3 tonnes of fish in the ocean by 2025 and by 2050, there would be more plastics than fish by weight.

Tell me more: A minimum of 8 million tonnes of plastics, which is equivalent to one garbage truck per minute, is being leaked into the ocean every year.



What is it? Average capacity utilization of power plants in India in November 2015. It has declined from 65.7% from a year ago.

Why is it important? The low usage has prompted government to allow power plants to sell spare capacity via electricity exchanges. This is likely to reduce the burden of fixed charges, which state distribution companies (discoms) have to pay as a component of the tariff. With the new rule, while the fixed charges would still apply, the profits from sale of idle capacity would be shared equally among power producers and buyers.

Tell me more: Generating stations have been running below capacity as the poor financial health of discoms have prevented them from buying power. State electricity boards, which run the discoms, owe nearly Rs 4 lakh crore to the banks.



What is it? The degree by which the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces in 2015 was above the 20th century average, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information (NOAA).

Why is it important? That makes 2015 the hottest year on record. It surpassed the previous record of 0.16°C set in 2014. 15 of the 16 hottest years, since record-keeping was started in 1880, belong to the 21st century. It’s an indicator that the effects of global warming could be larger than expected, given the rapid pace at which temperatures are soaring. The phenomenon of El Niño (the occasional warming of waters in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean) was also one of the main factors for the extreme conditions.

Tell me more: The deviations recorded in the global average temperature on land and sea surfaces separately, were the highest ever (since there have been records).



What is it? Prices of the global benchmarks for crude oil. (West Texas Intermediate – is trading at $26.55 a barrel and Brent at $27.87 per barrel)

Why is it important? Both hit their 13-year lows and have fallen 20% since the beginning of this year. This is largely because of a glut in oil production due to oversupply and tepid demand. Growth in consumption of oil by China, which reported weak economic numbers on Wednesday, accounted for 43% of the world’s oil consumption growth. And, since it is making a transition from a manufacturing-led economy to a service-led one, its consumption of oil has slowed down, thus affecting crude oil prices negatively. Iran’s freedom from sanctions has made it re-enter the global oil market, which is likely to push oil prices down further.

Tell me more: In its January report, the International Energy Agency has said that this supply-demand mismatch will continue until the end of 2016, making it the third straight year where supply would exceed demand by 1 million barrels per day.



What is it? Number of people killed in a militant attack by a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban at Bacha Khan University in Pakistan on Wednesday.

Why is it important? This comes almost a year after the Pakistani Taliban militants murdered 150 students and teachers at a school in Peshawar. Shows Pakistani authorities have much to do to counter terrorism, despite a 50% decrease in civilian deaths from terrorist violence in 2015 from the previous year. Khalifa Omar Mansoor, the commander of the faction of the Pakistani Taliban which was responsible for the Peshawar attack, said he was the one who ordered the university attack too. However, Tehrik-e-Taliban, which claims to represent Pakistan’s main Taliban groups, issued a statement disassociating itself from the attack and also, condemning it.

Tell me more: Four gunmen, who slipped into the university campus using the winter fog as shield, stormed into classrooms and dormitories and fired bullets at students and teachers. All the four have been killed.


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News in numbers, Dec 18, 2015: Doubling of US visa charges, global warming…

$400 million

What is it? The amount Indian IT industry will lose every year if US proposal to impose special fee on temporary work visas goes through, according to estimates by industry body Nasscom.

Why is it important? It will hit profit margins of Indian IT players dependent on H1-B and L-1 visas. In 2014, 86% of H1-B visas and 47% for computer occupations and engineering jobs (respectively) went to Indians, the largest share in both the categories, according to an analysis by Computerworld. Recently, when a couple of US senators wanted to curb the number of temporary work visas given to foreigners, Indian IT stocks took a hit.

Tell me more: US lawmakers have proposed to impose a special fee of $4,000 on certain categories of H1-B visas and $4,500 on L-1 visas. In effect, it doubles the visa charges. They expect it to generate $1 billion annually, which it would use to fund a biometric entry and exit tracking system and funding health screenings and treatments for the first responders after the 9/11 terror attacks on the US. The Indian IT industry has a significant presence in the US where it contributed nearly 411,000 jobs in 2015 and $20 billion in taxes between 2011-15. It gets about 47% of its $98 billion export revenues from the US.


0.97 degree celsius

What is it? The degree by which the average temperature in November across global land and ocean surfaces was higher than the 20th century average, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Why is it important? This makes last month the hottest November (on record) ever . It is also the seventh consecutive month when a monthly global temperature record has been broken. If December 2015 beats the coldest December (on record) in 2016, it has to be “unusually cold” and that is not likely to happen, according to Jake Crouch, climate scientist at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. And, if this doesn’t happen, then 2015 would be the warmest year ever – underlining the need to tackle climate change whose effects include more droughts, heat waves and increase in sea levels.

Tell me more: The globally-averaged sea surface temperature was the highest for November in the 1880-2015 record and the globally-average land surface temperature was the fifth highest for November in the same period.


$434 million

What is it? The payout to businessman Bernard Tapie by the French government in 2008.

Why is it important? It has come back to haunt Christine Lagarde, then France’s finance minister and now managing director of International Monetary Fund (IMF). A French court has ordered Lagarde to face trial over her role (which was, negligence) in this payout. This is likely to end her prospects of seeking a second term as IMF chief. Appointed in 2011, Lagarde is the first woman to head the organisation of 188 countries and her term ends in May 2016. Her predecessor Dominique Strauss-Kahn also faced tough time during his tenure – for a different reason.

Tell me more: In this 20-year old case, Tapie sold his majority stake in the then ailing Adidas to a group of investors and a year later, the company was bought by a businessman who was part of that investment group. Tapie alleged that the company was deliberately undervalued and sued the Crédit Lyonnais bank (was part of the investment group). After going through a series of courts, the case was referred to Lagarde (then France’s finance minister) who referred it to an arbitration panel and Tapie was awarded $434 million compensation. This was paid out of public funds in an out-of-court settlement, which caused a public furore.



What is it? Number of S-400 air defence systems India has proposed to buy from Russia at an expected cost of Rs 30,000 crore.

Why is it important? It’s a sign of strengthening ties between India and Russia. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting Russia next week, and is expected to create a joint innovation fund, among others. The defence deal is also aimed to counterbalance Russia’s relationship with China and Pakistan. China signed a deal with Russia to procure S-400 systems earlier this year, and Pakistan is seen as getting close to Russia. China’s military strength is far superior to India’s by several metrics, with its defence budget nearly four times more than India’s. India has been strengthening its defence shield against both through domestic research and development and imports.  

Tell me more: S-400 is designed to protect key installations such as nuclear reactors and big cities. A surface-to-air missile, which can attack unmanned aerial vehicles, drones, cruise missiles, is completely automated from target acquisition to final engagement and is considered as a fourth-generation system in combat capabilities.


65 basis points

What is it? The difference between the cut in benchmark rate by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the drop in banks’ lending rates in 2015. One basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage point.

Why is it important? The mismatch has led RBI to introduce a new formula (with effect from April 1) to calculate lending rates, and make them more responsive to policy rate changes. For new borrowers, loan rates are likely to be cheaper and for the existing customers, it is likely to take a year to experience the effects of implementing the new formula. Besides transmission in rates, the RBI expects the new measures to bring in increased transparency in calculating loan rates and which are “fair” to both the bankers and the borrowers.

Tell me more: Currently, banks decide their lending rates based on the average cost of funds on deposits outstanding and under the new method, the lending rates would be based on marginal cost of funds based lending rate. An October report by India Ratings said that while the RBI has cut rates by 125 basis points, banks have cut one-year deposits by an average of 130 basis points, thus paying lower to customers and making more money. A study of the last 10 years by India Ratings shows that in most cases when policy rates have been reduced, deposit rates have come down quicker than lending rates and the decrease of the former also has been higher.


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