RBIKeeps Policy Repo Rate at 6.50%, Retains Growth Forecast at 7% - Business Guardian
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RBIKeeps Policy Repo Rate at 6.50%, Retains Growth Forecast at 7%



Headline inflation softened to 5.1 per cent during January-February 2024, from 5.7 per cent in December. After correcting in January, food inflation edged up to 7.8 per cent in February primarily driven by vegetables, eggs, meat and fish.

The Reserve Bank of India on Friday, as widely expected, kept the policy repo rate unchanged at 6.50 per cent, remaining focused on the objective of achieving the medium-term target for consumer price index (CPI) inflation of 4 per cent while supporting growth even as the domestic economy experiences strong momentum on the back of GDP growth of 7.6 per cent in 2023-24, buoyant domestic demand, strong investment activity and a lower drag from net external demand.

Headline inflation softened to 5.1 per cent during January-February 2024, from 5.7 per cent in December. After correcting in January, food inflation edged up to 7.8 per cent in February primarily driven by vegetables, eggs, meat and fish.

The RBI also projected GDP growth for 2024-25 at 7.0 per cent with Q1 at 7.1 per cent, Q2 at 6.9 per cent, Q3 at 7.0 per cent and Q4 at 7.0 per cent taking into consideration factors like continued momentum in manufacturing on the back of sustained profitability, heightened private consumption buoyed by further pick-up in rural activity and steady urban demand, bright prospects of fixed investment, healthy corporate and bank balance sheets, robust government capital expenditure and signs of upturn in private capex. The growth projections also take into consideration headwinds from geopolitical tensions, volatility in international financial markets, geoeconomic fragmentation, rising Red Sea disruptions, and extreme weather events, however, pose risks to the outlook.

The decision on policy rates and growth, follows the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting which has weighed in India’s current and evolving macroeconomic situation amidst a global economy which exhibits resilience and shows signs of maintaining its steady growth in 2024, treading down inflation supported by favorable base effects, rallying equity markets and financial markets which are responding to changing perceptions on the timing and pace of monetary policy trajectories.

Sachin Bajaj, Executive Vice President & Head – Investments, Max Life Insurance feels that outcome of the MPC has come along the expected lines. “The policy was balanced especially given the backdrop of current macro-environment challenges of geopolitics and commodity prices etc,” says Bajaj.

For industry, the decision of the RBI to keep the policy REPO rate unchanged at 6.5 per cent and assertion to remain focused on moderating inflation shows resolve on the part of the central bank to ensure price stability for long-term sustained economic growth. What is reassuring, says ASSOCHAM Secretary General Deepak Sood, is that having witnessed a real GDP growth of 7.6 per cent for the fiscal 2023-24, the RBI’s projection of seven per cent economic expansion in FY ‘25 comes on the back of a high base of growth numbers. “We stand by RBI’s commitment for ‘unwavering focus on price stability’ to ringfence the economy from global headwinds including geopolitical situation and the resultant supply chain disruptions,” says Sood.

However, amidst MPC concern over tight demand supply conditions in certain pulses and the prices of key vegetables, upward movement in cost-push pressures faced by firms and recent firming up of international crude oil prices, all of which warrants close monitoring, CPI inflation for 2024-25 is projected at 4.5 per cent with Q1 at 4.9 per cent, Q2 at 3.8 per cent, Q3 at 4.6 per cent and Q4 at 4.5 per cent. This is also after factoring in geopolitical tensions and volatility in financial markets which pose risks to the inflation outlook.

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WPI inflation up 1.26 % in April, ICRA hints at 2.0-3.0 % rise in May



India’s inflation based on the wholesale price index (WPI) in April increased at a positive rate of 1.26 per cent year on year, when it was 0.8% in April 2023, driven by fuel and power, WPI-food (primary food + manufactured food) and core-WPI (manufactured non-food products) groups, rising to a 13-month high, pushed by an increase in prices of food articles, electricity, crude petroleum and natural gas, manufacture of food products, and other manufacturing, among other factors.

The April WPI rose from 0.5 per cent in March 2024. The month-over-month change in WPI index for the month of April 2024 stood at 0.79 per cent as compared to March 2024, provisional data released by the Commerce Ministry showed on Tuesday. The WPI inflation eased marginally to 0.2 per cent in February 2024 from 0.3 per cent in January 2024, partly led by the decline in the inflation for minerals as well as the wider YoY deflation in core-WPI and fuel and power in February 2024 vs. January 2024.

Rating agency ICRA had forecast that WPI inflation would rise in March 2024, crossing the 1.0 per cent mark after a gap of 11 months, amid the ongoing uptick in international prices of crude oil and other commodities, as well as an unfavorable base (+1.4 per cent in March 2023. The food Index consisting of ‘food articles’ from primary articles group and ‘food product’ from manufactured products group have increased from 180.1 in March 2024 to 183.6 in April 2024. The rate of inflation based on WPI food index increased from 4.65 per cent in March 2024 to 5.52 per cent in April 2024.

The index for primary articles, a major group, increased by 1.97 per cent to 186.7 in April 2024 from 183.1 for the month of March 2024. Prices of crude petroleum and natural gas increased 3.56 per cent and that of food articles increased 2.67 per cent as compared to March 2024. Prices of non-food articles fell 1.19 per cent and minerals fell by 1.55 per cent in April 2024 as compared to March 2024. The index for fuel and power declined by 0.26 per cent to 154.8 in April 2024 from 155.2 in March 2024. Prices of mineral oils rose 0.06 per cent in April 2024 as compared to March 2024. Prices of electricity decreased 1.20 per cent in April 2024 as compared to March 2024.

The index for another major group, manufactured products increased by 0.50 per cent to 140.8 in April 2024 from 140.1 for the month of March 2024. Some of the important groups that showed month-over-month increase in prices are basic metals, other manufacturing, textiles, food products, chemical and chemical products, etc. Some of the groups that witnessed a decrease in prices are other non-metallic mineral products, paper and paper products, motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers, furniture and leather and related products in April 2024 as compared to March 2024.

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India’s PV sales in April grow modestly by 1.3 per cent at 3.36 lakh units



India’s wholesales of passenger cars in April registered a marginal growth of 1.3 per cent with 3.36 lakh units, as compared to April 2023 and yet continuing the highest ever monthly sales trend driven by positive consumer sentiments and festivities in this month. Sales of PVs were 3,31 lakh units in the corresponding month last year, the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) reported on Tuesday.

The total sales of all categories put together was approximately 25 per cent to 21,36,157 units during the month as compared with 17,12,812 units in April 2023, the SIAM monthly report showed. Vinod Aggarwal, President, SIAM feels 2024-25 has started on a reasonably good note for the auto industry, as all the segments have posted growth in April 2024. “Above normal monsoon rainfall, policy continuity post-elections and Government’s push on manufacturing and infrastructure would propel the overall economic growth which would help in continuing the auto sector’s growth trajectory,” said Aggarwal.

Continuing with the trends of Q4 of 2023-24, two-wheelers reported significant yoy growth of 30.8 per cent in April 2024, compared to April 2023, posting sales of about 17.51 lakh units. Two-wheeler sales in April 2023 were 13,38,588 units. The SIAM data shows motorcycle sales grew by 34.4 per cent y-o-y to 11,28,192 units as compared with 8,39,274 units in April 2023. Similarly, scooter sales grew by 25.2 per cent y-o-y to 5,81,277 units as against 4,64,389 units in the same month last year.

The three-wheeler segment also reported sales of about 0.49 lakh units, with a growth of 14.5 per cent in April 2024, compared to April 2023. Three-wheeler sales in the domestic market were 49,116 units in April 2024. The total production of passenger vehicles, three-wheelers, two-wheelers and quadricycle in April 2024 was 23,58,041 units.

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Singapore retailer to operate duty-free shops at Noida Airport



Heinemann will run duty-free stores at Noida International Airport, while BWC Forwarders will manage domestic retail and international duty-paid retail.

Noida International Airport (NIA) has granted the concession for retail and duty-free operations to a consortium led by Heinemann Asia Pacific and BWC Forwarders Private Limited. Heinemann will oversee duty-free stores, while BWC Forwarders will handle domestic retail and international duty-paid retail operations. Passengers at NIA will have access to Heinemann-branded stores throughout the airport. The domestic retail area will showcase a wide array of top international brands and well-known Indian labels.

The retail outlets at NIA will also showcase elements of local culture and heritage, highlighting the artisanal traditions of Uttar Pradesh. A curated collection of elegant regional artifacts, textiles, woodwork, jewelry, and metalwork sourced locally will provide passengers with a glimpse into the rich cultural tapestry of the region.

Meanwhile, the international duty-free outlet at NIA will offer a wide array of premium brands across categories such as liquors, tobacco, confectionery, perfumes, cosmetics, fragrances, and chocolates. Additionally, passengers can explore fashion accessories, regional handicrafts, souvenirs, ayurvedic products, packaged food, teas, coffees, and spices, ensuring a delightful shopping experience amidst their travels.

Speaking on the development, Christoph Schnellmann, chief executive officer of NIA, said, “As we continue to develop Noida International Airport into a world-class facility, this partnership will provide a seamless blend of duty-free and retail shopping, catering to the diverse needs of our travelers. This will enable access to an array of premium and experiential options that will ensure our passengers’ time at the airport is both enjoyable and memorable. We believe this collaboration will set a new standard for airport retail, creating an unparalleled shopping experience for travelers at Noida International Airport.”

“The Indian growth story, particularly when it comes to travel and aviation, is an extremely exciting onwards and upwards journey to be a part of. We deeply thank the NIA team for their trust in appointing us as their very first retail partners. Together with BWC, we look forward to crafting an exceptional retail environment at Noida, and to continuously grow our shared business in India for the long term,” Marvin von Plato, chief executive officer of Heinemann Asia Pacific, added.

Noida International Airport’s first phase is anticipated to handle a capacity of 12 million passengers annually. NIA’s future development phases will enable it to cater to up to 70 million passengers per year.

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Amazon’s new seller fees criticized as a ‘Kick in the Gut’




Amazon.com Inc. merchants are facing significant economic pressure. Earlier this year, the e-commerce giant implemented fee changes, effectively transferring more operating costs onto the small businesses that constitute the majority of its product sellers. Additionally, merchants are grappling with a trend of consumers opting for cheaper products across various categories in the first four months of the year, as reported by Adobe Inc. This shift towards lower-priced items makes it challenging for merchants to increase prices and maintain profitability online.

Duncan Freer, who sells weighted blankets and sleep masks on Amazon, expects his profit margin to slide to 8% from 20% as a result of the new fees. One, imposed in March, charges a levy on shipments sent to the company’s fulfillment centers. That will drive the cost of shipping two pallets of Freer’s products to Amazon to more than $800, up four-fold from what it cost him in October, he said. Amazon reduced the cost of fulfilling each customer order, but Freer said it only partially offsets the new fees.

“Amazon just keeps grabbing more and more,” said the Chicago businessman, whose sales on the marketplace amount to about $500,000 a year. “It’s like a kick in the gut.”

Amazon said the new fees are intended to reflect its own cost of distributing inventory around the US so more items can be delivered in just one day, which helps boost overall sales for online merchants. Some fees actually went down. In January, Amazon cut commissions for sellers of low-cost apparel, a move interpreted by merchants as an effort to blunt competition from Chinese fast-fashion startup Shein.

“When we announced these new fee changes in December, we estimated that sellers will on average see an increase of $0.15 per unit sold, which is significantly less than the average fee increases announced by other fulfillment service providers,” company spokeswoman Mira Dix said in an emailed statement. “As sellers are adapting to these changes we have seen that the actual impact is even lower, and many more sellers are seeing a decrease in the average fees that they are paying to Amazon.”

Still, many merchants say Amazon is mostly benefiting from the higher fees, an assertion reflected in the company’s earnings. Revenue from seller services, which includes the popular Fulfillment by Amazon logistics operation, increased at a faster rate than fulfillment expenses in each of the past seven quarters. Amazon’s seller services revenue of $34.6 billion for the period ended March 30 was up 36.5% from two years earlier, more than triple the pace of growth of its fulfillment costs, which were $22.3 billion in the period.

In last month’s earnings report, the cloud computing division’s strong performance overshadowed the growing tension between Amazon and its sellers. Amazon Web Services in the first quarter contributed more than 60% of the company’s operating income even though it accounts for less than 20% of revenue. But sales in the core e-commerce business grew at a slower pace than the number of units sold, another indication that consumers are watching their budgets.

Amazon’s marketplace model helps the company keep growing through a slowdown by charging fees for advertising and logistics. Antonio Bindi, a Brazilian businessman who has sold home storage and kitchen products on Amazon for five years, said the fee structure is getting increasingly complex. Of particular concern: a levy introduced in April charged when sellers’ inventory runs low. That’s on top of previous storage fees that increase when slow-selling inventory lingers in Amazon warehouses. It’s too much for his 20-person team to manage, so he’s whittling his catalog of 500 products down to 400 to simplify the operation. Five years ago, he said, “Amazon was a platform that would facilitate your business operations and let you focus on what you’re good at, like creating great products. You could just send your products to Amazon, and they’d take care of everything. Now you need an entire department to deal with the complexity. The costs are prohibitive.”

San Francisco seller Neil Ayton sells golf yardage books, yoga gear, and pickleball equipment. One of his most popular products is a yoga stick practitioners use to stretch. It was 59 inches, the longest it could be to avoid higher fee tier. Earlier this year, he noticed Amazon cut the size limit, and suddenly his yoga sticks were one inch too long. Shipping costs for each product jumped from $10 to $26, and Ayton began losing $3 per sale.

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Record-breaking IPL 2024: Star sports draws 510 mm viewers in 51 matches



Disney Star, the broadcaster for the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024, announced a record viewership of 510 million for the initial 51 matches. As the Tata IPL 2024 approaches its finals with 17 matches remaining, cricket fever has soared to unprecedented levels, establishing new records both in the sport and in terms of viewership. According to data from the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), Star Sports, the broadcasting channel for IPL 2024 under Disney Star, has attracted 510 million viewers during the first 51 matches. This figure represents a 5% increase compared to the previous high recorded in 2019 for the same number of matches.

Additionally, the broadcaster has experienced an 18 per cent increase from the previous edition in terms of total watch time, with viewers spending a staggering 356,000 million minutes. Disney Star also witnessed a 19 per cent increase in TVR (television viewership rating) for the first 51 matches, compared to the 2021 season.

As the conclusion of the IPL 2024 league stage approaches, the competition for playoff berths is intensifying, with eight teams competing for the last four positions. Mumbai Indians and Punjab Kings are not in contention for the IPL 2024 playoffs race. Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals are striving for the top two spots, while Delhi Capitals and Lucknow Super Giants are locked in a battle for fourth place with 12 points each.

In a release, Disney Star said, “The Tata IPL 2024 season is reaching its fever pitch, and Star Sports is capturing the electrifying race to the playoffs with unique surround programming. The battle for the top four positions is set to go down to the wire, promising thrilling and exceptionally close matchups, making it one of the most compelling races in IPL history.

Disney Star is airing the Tata IPL 2024 across 14 channels in 10 languages. The marketing campaign for the 17th edition of the tournament, titled “Ajab IPL ke gazab rang,” revolves around the idea that a fan’s allegiance shines through during their team’s journey in the tournament, with each IPL moment resonating uniquely with diverse viewers.

This year, Star Sports has collaborated with Tata Play and Airtel Digital TV to provide IPL matches in 4K resolution and introduced value-added services.

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India’s industrial output slows to 4.9 % in March ’24, manufacturing, power rise



India’s factory output, measured by the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), in March 2024 posted 4.9 per cent year-on-year growth, moderating from 5.6 per cent in February 2024 and ending fiscal 2024 on a sober note. The IIP growth was led by a robust expansion in electricity even as manufacturing growth rose to a five-month high, albeit on a very low base.

The growth rate of the mining sector for the month of March 2024 over March 2023 was 1.2 per cent, manufacturing grew 5.2 per cent yoy while the growth rate of electricity for the month of March 2024 was 8.6 per cent more than that in March 2023, as per Government data on Friday. Within the manufacturing sector, the top three positive sectoral contributors to the growth of IIP for the month of March 2024 are ‘basic metals with 7.7 per cent growth, pharmaceuticals, medicinal chemical and botanical products with growth of 16.7 per cent and manufacture of other transport equipment with growth of 25.4 per cent.

Dharmakirti Joshi, Chief Economist, CRISIL notes that the slowdown in March was driven by infrastructure and construction goods, which reflects moderating government capital expenditure at the end of the fiscal. “Among consumer products, while durables slowed, non-durables revived this month, hinting at a moderation in urban demand and a revival in rural demand,” says Joshi.

According to CRISIL, the IIP had increased to 5.7 per cent on-year in February from 4.1 per cent in January, boosted by healthy performance in both consumption and industrial sectors. Meanwhile, January’s reading was revised up from the previous estimate of 3.8 per cent as IIP growth picked up in all three subsectors of manufacturing, mining, and electricity.

Aditi Nayar, Chief Economist, ICRA sees the dip in IIP growth on expected lines as the leap-year effect faded. Nayar observes that the yoy growth in a majority of the available high-frequency indicators witnessed an uptick in April 2024, including vehicle registrations, generation of GST e-way bills, petrol sales which zoomed to a 22-month high of above 14.1 per cent from above 6.9 per cent, partly owing to increased movement in the run-up to General Elections), output of Coal India and electricity generation to a six-month high of more than 9.6 per cent from more than 8.1 per cent, owing to rise in temperatures. “In contrast, the yoy performance of diesel sales to more than 1.4 per cent from more than 3.1 per cent, cargo traffic at major ports to more than 1.3 per cent from more than 3.6 per cent and finished steel consumption to more than 9.4 per cent from more than 9.6 per cent, albeit remaining quite robust deteriorated in April 2024 relative to March 2024.

Government data also shows cumulative growth rate for the period of April-March 2023-24 over the corresponding period of the previous year at 5.8 per cent. The cumulative growth rate of mining for the period of April-March 2023-24 over the corresponding period of the previous year is 7.5 per cent, manufacturing growth was 5.5 per cent and electricity growth, yoy, for the period of April-March 2023-24 was 7.1 per cent.

Joshi foresees a likely slowdown in gross domestic product (GDP) with growth averaging 4.9 per cent in the fourth quarter, compared with 6.2 per cent in the third. On the positive side, as Joshi points out, rural demand, which was a key drag for consumption last fiscal, could revive this fiscal. While early weather forecasts predict a normal monsoon this year, the lagged impact of the Reserve Bank of India’s rate hikes and regulatory tightening of credit could have a moderating impact, especially for urban consumption,” says Joshi.

“A lower fiscal impulse this year is further expected to dial down the capex support to growth in fiscal 2025 as government targets reducing fiscal deficit to 5.1 per cent of GDP from 5.8 per cent of GDP previous fiscal. A pickup in private capex is critical to sustain the investment momentum,” suggests Joshi.

Due to these factors, CRISIL expects gross domestic product growth to moderate to 6.8 per cent in fiscal 2025 over 7.6 per cent estimated for the past year.

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