Gold prices hit all-time high as covid spike lifts safe-haven demand

News Network
July 1,2020

Jul 1: Gold prices in India hit an all-time high on Wednesday, tracking a global rally, as surging coronavirus cases in many countries raised the metal's safe-haven appeal.

Local gold futures hit an all-time high of Rs 48,871 ($646.66) per 10 grams in early trade, taking their gains to 25% in 2020 so far. The contract had gained nearly 25% in 2019.

However, this dampened the retail demand for gold in India, the world's second-largest consumer of the precious metal.

"Retail demand is negligible. Buyers are postponing purchases anticipating a correction in prices," said a Mumbai-based bank dealer with a bullion importing bank.

In thin trade, dealers were offering a discount of up to $22 an ounce over official domestic prices on Wednesday afternoon, up from the last week's $18. The domestic price includes a 12.5% import tax and 3% sales tax.

The country's gold imports in May plunged 99% from a year earlier as international air travel was banned and jewellery shops were closed amid a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus.

In overseas market, spot gold firmed near an eight-year peak on Wednesday, as a spike in coronavirus cases in the United and States and many other countries has cast a shadow on hopes for a quicker global economic recovery, driving inflows into safe-haven assets.

According to a latest Reuters tally, the coronavirus has infected more than 10.48 million people worldwide so far.

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Kozhikode airport not safe during rainy season, expert had warned nine years ago

News Network
August 8,2020

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The Kozhikode International Airport located at Karipur is not safe for the landing of flights in rainy season, according to an air-safety expert, who had warned the aviation ministry and the civil aviation regulator about this in 2011. 

The warning was particularly about the dangers of permitting passenger aircraft to land on runway 10 of the airport during rains and unfavourable wind conditions. 

Nine years later, on August 7, 2020, the warning became a reality when an Air India Express pilots landed in tailwind conditions and the aircraft overshot the tabletop runway to drop off the end and crash.

 “An aircraft landing on runway 10 in tailwind will experience poor braking action due to heavy rubber deposits … All such flights … are endangering the lives of all on board,’’ said Capt Mohan Ranganathan, in a letter sent on June 17, 2011 to then director general of civil aviation Bharat Bhushan and Nasim Zaidi, chairman of a civil aviation safety advisory committee, which was formed after the May 2010 Mangaluru air crash which killed 158 people.

“My warning issued after the Mangaluru crash was ignored. It is a table-top runway with a down slope. The buffer zone at the end of the runway is inadequate,” Capt Ranganathan said. Given the topography, he pointed out, the airport should have a buffer of 240m at the end of the runway, but it only has 90m (which the DGCA had approved). “Moreover, the space on either side of the runway is only 75m instead of the mandatory 100m,” he added.

Capt Ranganathan said there is no guideline for operations on a table-top runway when it is raining. “Runway 10 approach should not be permitted in view of the lack of runway end safety area (RESA) and the terrain beyond the end of the runway. RESA of 240m should be immediately introduced and runway length has to be reduced to make the operations safe,” his letter said.

If an aircraft is unable to stop within the runway, there is no RESA beyond the end. The ILS localiser antenna is housed on a concrete structure and the area beyond is a steep slope. “The Air India Express accident in Mangalore should have alerted AAI to make the runway conditions safe. We have brought up the issue of RESA during the initial Casac-sub group meetings. We had specifically mentioned that the declared distances for both runways have to be reduced in order to comply with ICAO Annex 14 requirement,” Capt Ranganathan said.

He said the condition of the runway strip was known to DGCA teams that have been conducting inspection and safety assessments. “Have they considered the danger involved? Did the DGCA or the airlines lay down any operational restrictions or special procedures?”

The letter also refers to Approach and Landing Accident Reduction (ALAR) training, which is supposed to be mandatory before every monsoon, but airlines don’t follow it, he said. “70% of accidents take place during approach and landing and that is why this training is essential,” he added.

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Mukesh Ambani edges past Warren Buffett, becomes world’s 5th richest

News Network
July 23,2020

New Delhi, Jul 23: Riding high on foreign investors buying stakes in Jio Platforms, Reliance Industries Ltd Chairman Mukesh Ambani became the world’s fifth-richest person Wednesday, edging past American investor Warren Buffett on the real-time ranking of billionaires by Forbes. With an estimated wealth of $75 billion, Ambani is only next to Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, whose wealth is pegged at $89 billion.

Buffet had slipped down the rankings after donating more than $37 billion of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. stock since 2006 to charity. Berkshire Hathaway’s stock performance has also underwhelmed recently.

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos still sits at top in the richest list, with a net worth of $185.8 billion. He is followed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates with net worth of $113.1 billion and luxury group LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s chief Bernard Arnault, with a net worth of $112 billion. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is at the fourth position in the Forbes list.

Shares of Ambani’s conglomerate have more than doubled since a low in March as its digital unit got more than $15 billion in investments from companies including Facebook Inc, Silver Lake, Intel, and most recently, Google. The US tech giant has committed a capital infusion of Rs 33,737 crore for a 7.7 per cent stake on Jio Platforms.

The total investment from financial and strategic investors into Jio Platforms stands at Rs 1,52,056 crore. RIL has raised a total of Rs 2,12,809 crore through a rights issue, the combined investments in Jio Platforms and investment by BP.

During the Reliance AGM last week, Ambani had said RIL has made its net-debt free ahead of a March 2021 target due to recent investments. Ambani said Jio has designed and developed a complete 5G solution that’s ready for launch as soon as spectrum is made available next year.

Jio and Google have also entered into a commercial agreement to jointly develop an entry-level affordable smartphone with optimisations to the Android operating system and the Play Store, Ambani said.

RILs market value jumped to Rs 12.7 lakh crore or $170 billion on Monday, making it the 51st most valued company in the world. Between April 1 and July 13, RIL has gained $81 billion in market capitalisation and has climbed 47 places from being the 98th most valued company on April 1 to 51st most value company now.

The share price of RIL has risen by 120 per cent over the last four months for Rs 883 per share on March 23, 2020 to Rs 1,939 on Monday. Since April 22, when Facebook Inc announced an investment of Rs 43,574 crore in Jio Platforms for 9.99 per cent equity stake, Jio Platforms has announced investments by 12 other investors. The total investment by these 13 investors over the last 12-weeks amounted to Rs 118,318 crore.

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India needs to look beyond what rating agencies think, says Raghuram Rajan

Agencies
August 6,2020

Mumbai, Aug 6: Former Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan said on Thursday that overly focusing on what sovereign rating agencies think can take one's eyes off what needs to be done for the economy.

"It is also important to convince both domestic and international investors that after the crisis associated with the pandemic is over, we will return to fiscal responsibility over the medium term, and the government should do more to convince them of that," Rajan told the Global Markets Forum.

India was placed under one of the strictest lockdowns in the world in late March for more than two months to stem the spread of the coronavirus, but cases have continued to rise steadily since the government eased restrictions in June, stymieing hopes of an economic recovery.

The government has announced several initiatives to help the poor and small- and medium-size businesses, but actual cash outgo from the government's measures has been estimated at just about 1% of GDP.

Several attribute the fiscal prudence to fear of a downgrade after Moody's cut India's rating and outlook in early June followed closely by a change in outlook from Fitch.

The central bank on its part too has reduced the key lending rate by 115 basis points on top of the 135 bps last year and is widely expected to cut rates by another 25 bps later on Thursday.

"The RBI and government have certainly been cooperating, but it seems like it is elsewhere, the ball is in the government's court to do more," Rajan said.

He said the RBI needs to focus on whether credit is reaching the stressed areas of the economy and also if the viable firms were able to access credit and not the unviable ones.

"And I think that's where it has to focus its attentions, because resources, as you well know, are limited in India today."

Recently analysts, however, have cited the growing possibility the RBI may prefer to pause and cut rates only at its October meeting.

Government officials too have suggested the possibility of any more fiscal stimulus being announced, would only come in the second half of the fiscal year, once a recovery has taken root and coronavirus cases have peaked.

"What India should focus on at this point is protecting its economic capabilities, so that when it has dealt with the virus it can go resume activity in a reasonable way. That should be the focus," Rajan said.

"And if it does that, there is no reason why the rating agencies will not see that as an appropriate policy".

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