Today’s top business news: Shares rise over 2% boosted by bank stocks, UN expects India’s 2021 economic output to likely remain below 2019 level, petrol and diesel prices cut, and more

The benchmark stock indices opened the day on a  positive note despite the record rise in daily coronavirus cases.

Join us as we follow the top business news through the day.

4:30 PM

HDFC Bank admits net banking glitches; customers face problem in accessing services

Technical glitches repeat at India’s largest private banker.

PTI reports: “The country’s largest private sector lender HDFC Bank on Tuesday said it is taking steps to resolve glitches in its digital banking platform and restore services on priority.

“Some customers are facing intermittent issues accessing our NetBanking/MobileBanking App. We are looking into it on priority for resolution. We apologize for the inconvenience and request you to try again after sometime. Thank you,” HDFC Bank said in a tweet.

This is not for the first time that the customers of the bank have faced service outage. In fact, the bank has been penalised by the Reserve bank of India (RBI) for two major outages in the past.

In December, the RBI temporarily barred HDFC Bank from launching new digital banking initiatives and issuing new credit cards after taking a serious view of service outages at the lender over the last two years.

“RBI has issued an order dated December 2, 2020, to HDFC Bank Ltd with regard to certain incidents of outages in the internet banking/ mobile banking/ payment utilities of the bank over the past two years, including the recent outages in the bank’s internet banking and payment system on November 21, 2020, due to a power failure in the primary data centre,” HDFC Bank had said in a regulatory filing.

The bank has been penalised for two major outages, one in November 2018 and the other in December 2019.

Taking a stern view of the repeated outages, RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das had said in December the regulator had some concerns about certain deficiencies and it was necessary that HDFC Bank strengthens its IT system before expanding further.

“… we cannot have thousands and lakhs of customers who are using digital banking to be in any kind of difficulty for hours together and especially when we are ourselves giving so much emphasis on digital banking. Public confidence in digital banking has to be maintained,” Das had said.

HDFC Bank, the largest lender by assets in the private sector, has been classified as a systemically important entity by the RBI in the past. It is also the largest issuer of credit cards and has a significant share in the payment processing segment.

The bank is the largest issuer of credit cards and had 1.49 crore customers as of September 2020 while on the debit cards front, it had 3.38 crore customers.”

4:00 PM

Sensex rallies 1,128 pts; Nifty reclaims 14,800 level

A blockbuster day for stocks.

PTI reports: “Extending its gains to the second consecutive session, equity benchmark Sensex rallied 1,128 points on Tuesday, tracking gains in index majors HDFC twins, Infosys and Reliance Industries amid a positive trend in global markets.

The 30-share BSE index ended 1,128.08 points or 2.30 per cent higher at 50,136.58, and the broader NSE Nifty surged 337.80 points or 2.33 per cent to 14,845.10.

HCL Tech was the top gainer in the Sensex pack, rising over 4 per cent, followed by HDFC Bank, Infosys, NTPC, Nestle India, TCS and HUL.

On the other hand, M&M, Bharti Airtel and Axis Bank were the laggards.

“Except for today’s depreciation, the INR has remained quite steady even though the dollar index rose. Also when the US 10-year bond yields has spiked sharply India’s 10-year bond yield has remained quite stable.

“These two factors could act in India’s favour and help Indian equities outperform its peers in the emerging markets,” said Rusmik Oza, Executive Vice President, Head of Fundamental Research at Kotak Securities.

Recent correction could be due to rising COVID-19 cases and year-end phenomenon wherein retail and HNI investors would have avoided taking any fresh positions, he said, adding that the start of new settlement for FY22 and forthcoming Q4 earnings seasons could be the reasons for fresh investor interest in stocks.

“US markets, especially the Dow Jones and S&P 500 are showing firm uptrend due to the ongoing stimulus and faster vaccination drive which could also be one of the reasons for our markets to inch upwards,” Oza noted.

Elsewhere in Asia, bourses in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul ended on a positive note.

Stock exchanges in Europe were also trading with significant gains in mid-session deals.

Meanwhile, the global oil benchmark Brent crude was trading 0.49 per cent lower at USD 64.60 per barrel.”

3:30 PM

India’s 2021 economic output likely to remain below 2019 level: UN report

The lingering effects of the lockdown on the economy.

PTI reports: “India’s economic output in 2021 is expected to remain below the 2019 level despite roll-out of the vaccine to deal with the menace of the coronavirus pandemic, said a report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) released on Tuesday.

India, according to the ‘Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2021: Towards post-COVID-19 resilient economies’, is estimated to record an economic growth of 7 per cent in 2021-22, over a contraction of 7.7 per cent witnessed in the previous fiscal on account of the pandemic’s impact on normal business activity.

Observing that India entered the pandemic with subdued GDP growth and investment, the report said, “Following one of the most stringent lockdowns in the world, the economic disruptions that the country experienced mounted in the second quarter of 2020.” It added that a subsequent change in lockdown policies and success in reducing infection rates supported an impressive economic turnaround in the third quarter.

“However, the pace of recovery moderated in the fourth quarter with estimated year-on-year growth still close to zero.

“Despite a robust reduction in new COVID-19 cases and the start of vaccine roll-out, India’s 2021 economic output is expected to remain below the 2019 level,” it added.

Meanwhile, maintaining low borrowing costs while keeping non-performing loans in check would be a challenge, it added.

In its second advance estimates of national accounts, the National Statistical Office (NSO) has projected an 8 per cent contraction in 2020-21, showing the pandemic impact.

The report futher said China’s swift and effective response to COVID-19 enabled it to become the only major economy worldwide to achieve a positive annual economic growth rate in 2020.

Supported by strong recovery in industrial production, infrastructure and housing investment, merchandise exports, and a modest recovery in private consumption, its 6.5 per cent year-on-year growth rate in the fourth quarter exceeded pre-pandemic growth levels.

The report forecasts that on an average, developing Asia-Pacific economies are expected to grow 5.9 per cent in 2021 and 5 per cent in 2022, after having experienced an estimated contraction of 1 per cent in 2020.

Despite a reasonably strong rebound expected in 2021, a ‘K-shaped recovery’ is likely, with poorer countries and more vulnerable groups marginalised in the post-pandemic recovery and transition period,” it said.

For a more robust and inclusive recovery, the report calls for a more synchronised COVID-19 vaccination programme across countries and highlights opportunities to leverage regional cooperation. At the same time, it recommends that fiscal and monetary support should be sustained, as premature tightening could increase long-term scars.

Produced annually since 1947, the Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific is the oldest United Nations report on the region’s progress.”

3:00 PM

Petrol price cut by 22 paise, diesel by 23 paise

Petrol and diesel prices on March 30 were cut for the third time within a week on the back of softening international oil prices.

Petrol price was cut by 22 paise per litre and diesel by 23 paise per litre, according to a price notification of State-owned fuel retailers.

Petrol now costs ₹90.56 per litre in Delhi and a litre of diesel comes for ₹80.87.

Rates have been reduced across the country and vary from state to state depending on the local incidence of taxation (VAT).

2:30 PM

This multi-lingual bot is transforming digital banking in rural India

The dream of building a startup took Sourabh Gupta and Akshay Deshraj, IIT-Roorkee alumni, to Bengaluru. To understand the next billion customers and their needs, they travelled from village to village across India for years, and their search came to an end when they met a farmer who told them about the difficulties he faces while engaging with the bank. The farmer explained that the messages he receives are in English, a language he does not understand, so he has to travel 10 kilometres to get that translated and in the process he loses out on his day’s earnings.

Around this time, Sourabh was visiting his hometown in Punjab. He alighted at Chandigarh airport, collected cash from an ATM, and left for his home in Ludhiana. On reaching, he realised that he had left the debit card at the ATM.

As the drive to the ATM was two hours, Sourabh decided to block his card through the app. But he could not figure out how to. He tried the same with Internet banking and failed again. Eventually, he was able to block his card through a call centre which took him almost 30 minutes including three attempts at finding the right key sequence to reach the call centre agent.


2:00 PM

These crypto-influencers distributed more than $20,000 of crypto to ‘homeless’ on Wall Street

Imagine two people walk up to you and offer you not mainstream currency but hundreds of dollars worth of crypto with no strings attached. What would you do? That is exactly what Giancomo Arcaro and Eloisa Marchesoni did over the March 27 and 28 weekend in New York City, for the unhoused and those hit badly by the lockdown who needed help funding their startup ideas, or ‘street startups’ as Arcaro called them.

Marchesoni, a 23-year-old crypto-influencer and entrepreneur, recalls the occasion with a lot of fondness as she chats with The Hindu over a call.


1:00 pm

Vistara to roll back pay cut for select staff categories

The labor market gets tighter.

PTI reports: “Full-service carrier Vistara has decided to roll back the pay cut, implemented by the airline last year, for certain categories of employees from April while the reduced salaries will continue for the management-level executives, including the CEO, according to an e-mail to the airline staff.

The Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines joint venture airline had in June 2020 announced a reduction in salary of nearly 40 per cent of the total workforce till December 31 to deal with low cash flow amid weak passenger demand in the wake of the pandemic. This was later extended to March 31.

“Our board has approved to cease the pay cut that was implemented for level-1 to level-3 staff from April 1, but the leadership team (level 4 and level-5) and I will continue with our pay cuts at 15 per cent and 25 per cent, respectively,” Vistara CEO, Leslie Thng said in the communication, reviewed by PTI.

A Vistara spokesperson confirmed the developments to PTI when contacted.

Thng, in the e-mail, also said the airline definitely was “not out of the woods” yet with operating capacity and revenue still below pre-COVID level, adding that, the road ahead will continue to be challenging, given the current state of the pandemic.

“We must remain vigilant in controlling our costs and be nimble and flexible in our plan and should be able to take difficult decisions if the need arises,” Thng said.

Vistara will not be paying any annual increment in April this year but will review it in October based on the airline’s financial position in the first two quarters of the new fiscal year, he informed the employees.

However, for staff, which is eligible for variable performance for financial year 2020-21, payments will be made in May based on company and individual staff performance in this financial year, he added.”

12:30 PM

GIC Housing Finance raises Rs 195 cr via issuance of NCDs

More fundraising efforts in the markets.

PTI reports: “GIC Housing Finance on Tuesday said it has raised Rs 195 crore through issuance of non-convertible debentures (NCDs) to Aditya Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund on private placement basis.

“…Pursuant to the authority accorded by our board… 1,950 numbers of NCDs, having a face value of Rs 10,00,000 each at par for an aggregate amount of Rs 195 crore, issued on private placement basis,” GIC Housing Finance said in a regulatory filing.

The NCDs have been allotted to Aditya Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund and carry an interest rate of 6.94 per cent per annum.

GIC Housing Finance said the NCDs are proposed to be listed on BSE.

Shares of GIC Housing Finance were trading 1.21 per cent higher at Rs 117.15 apiece on BSE.”

12:00 PM

Indian Premier League | Puma becomes official kit partner of RCB

Indian Premier League side Royal Challengers Bangalore on Tuesday signed a strategic long-term partnership with global sports brand Puma.

Under the terms of the deal, Puma will be the official kit partner of RCB from the upcoming season of the league.

Puma already has an on-going association with RCB skipper Virat Kohli.

“It’s great to welcome PUMA to the RCB family! A global brand with a strong sporting vision and great quality products, their extensive distribution network through offline and online channels will ensure fans have access to RCB merchandise across the country,” Kohli was quoted as saying in a media release.


11:30 AM

Indian shares rise over 1% as banks jump after an insolvency resolution

A further update on the stock market.

Reuters reports: “Indian shares rose on Tuesday, lifted by gains in bank shares after steel conglomerate JSW Steel completed an insolvency process, allowing lenders to recover some of their bad loans.

The blue-chip NSE Nifty 50 index rose 1.7% to 14,757.50 and the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex gained 1.6% at 49,792.04, by 0503 GMT.

JSW Steel said on Friday it completed a resolution plan for Bhushan Steel and Power, including a payment of 193.50 billion rupees ($2.66 billion) to financial creditors.

“The JSW Steel resolution has given impetus to the banks as many of them were lenders to the bankrupt company,” said Anita Gandhi, director at Arihant Capital Markets.

Major lenders to Bhushan, including State Bank of India Punjab National Bank, Canara Bank were up over 1% each and ICICI Bank gained 2.1%.

The Nifty bank index rose 1.9% and the public sector bank index gained 1.1%.

The Nifty metals index rose 3.2% and was the top gainer among sectoral indexes.

A rise in steel prices globally as well as locally are expected to increase the profits for steel companies and there has been lot of upgrades to the companies in the sector, Gandhi said.

Shares of Manganese Ore (India) Ltd jumped 7.3%, while Steel Authority of India Ltd, Jindal Steel, Tata Steel rose over 4% each.

Shares of Indian mobile gaming platform Nazara Technologies Ltd surged more than 80% in their market debut on Tuesday, reflecting investor enthusiasm for technology firms in a frenzied period for public listings.

Volumes are expected to be lighter in a holiday-shortened week, with the Indian exchanges being closed on Monday and the coming Friday.”

11:00 AM

MobiKwik asserts all user, firm’s data ‘safe, secure’

Payments app operator MobiKwik on Monday asserted that the data of its users and company was “completely safe and secure” in the wake of media reports and a flurry of social media posts on Twitter alleging that crucial know-your-customer (KYC) data had been leaked and was available for purchase online.

“Some media-crazed so-called security researchers have repeatedly attempted to present concocted files wasting precious time of our organisation as well as members of the media,” MobiKwik said in a statement. “We thoroughly investigated and did not find any security lapses. Our user and company data is completely safe and secure,” a company spokesperson added.

On February 26, Internet security researcher Rajshekhar Rajaharia tweeted: “Again!! 11 Crore Indian Cardholder’s Cards Data Including personal details & KYC soft copy (PAN, Aadhar etc) allegedly leaked from a company’s Server in India. 6 TB KYC Data and 350GB compressed mysql dump.” That tweet, however, did not name any company.


10:40 AM

Rupee slumps 34 paise to 72.85 against US dollar in early trade

A divergence between the rupee and stocks.

PTI reports: “The Indian rupee slumped 34 paise to 72.85 against the US dollar in opening trade on Tuesday as rising crude oil prices and a strong American currency weighed on investor sentiment.

At the interbank forex market, the domestic unit opened at 72.85 against the US dollar, registering a decline of 34 paise over its previous close.

On Friday, the rupee had settled at 72.51 against the American currency.

The forex market was closed on Monday on account of Holi.

The Rupee started this morning on a weaker note against the US dollar as risk appetite waned in the broader financial markets and a stronger greenback, Reliance Securities said in a research note.

Besides, most of the Asian currencies were weak this morning and will weigh on sentiments, it said.

Meanwhile, the dollar index, which gauges the greenback’s strength against a basket of six currencies, rose 0.01 per cent to 92.94.

“The US dollar was flat against the basket of currencies in Asian trade. However, downside could be capped amid a spike in treasury yields, as accelerating vaccinations and massive stimulus in the US stoked inflation concerns,” the Reliance Securities note said.

Brent crude futures, the global oil benchmark, rose 0.11 per cent to USD 65.05 per barrel.

On the domestic equity market front, the 30-share BSE benchmark Sensex was trading 760.39 points higher at 49,768.89, and the broader NSE Nifty advanced 233.40 points to 14,740.70.

Foreign institutional investors were net sellers in the capital market as they offloaded shares worth Rs 50.13 crore on Friday, according to exchange data.”

10:20 PM

Indian gaming firm Nazara’s shares jump over 80% in market debut

A blockbuster debut in the public market.

Reuters reports: “Shares of Indian mobile gaming platform Nazara Technologies Ltd surged more than 80% in their market debut on Tuesday, reflecting investor enthusiasm for technology firms in a frenzied period for public listings.

Shares opened at 1,990 rupees ($27.34) and rose as much 83.91% to hit a high of 2,024.90 by 0444 GMT.

Nazara organizes e-sports events including videogame tournaments, which draw thousands of millennial fans. The company also offers a variety of free and paid mobile gaming apps for kids and adults.”

10:00 AM

Indian shares rise 1% boosted by banks

Shares received a boost this morning after the long weekend.

Reuters reports: “Indian shares rose on Tuesday, as gains in State Bank of India and Canara Bank lifted banks, after a steel conglomerate completed an insolvency process, allowing lenders to recover some of their bad loans.

Volumes are expected to be lighter in a holiday-shortened week, with the Indian exchanges being closed on Monday and the coming Friday.

The blue-chip NSE Nifty 50 index rose 1.2% to 14,684 and the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex gained 1% at 49,487, as of 0409 GMT.

JSW Steel said on Friday it completed the resolution plan for Bhushan Steel and Power, including a payment of 193.50 billion rupees ($2.66 billion) to financial creditors.

The Nifty bank index and the public sector bank index rose 1% each.

Shares of Indian mobile gaming platform Nazara Technologies Ltd were set to debut in the Mumbai market on Tuesday after strong subscription to its initial public offering.”

9:30 AM

T.N.’s capex push bolsters growth hopes

The higher-than-budgeted capital expenditure undertaken in Tamil Nadu over 2020-21, is a ‘surprising’ positive that will boost the State’s medium-to-long-term growth prospects, India Ratings and Research has said in a report. Generally, State governments rein in capital expenditure when revenues are stressed.

Ahead of the assembly elections, the Tamil Nadu government presented a vote on account for FY22 and a full budget is expected to be presented by the newly elected government.

Revised estimates for capital expenditure this year are 8.72% higher than original Budget estimates and 58.65% higher than that incurred in 2019-20, Fitch Group-owned research firm Ind-Ra pointed out. “India Ratings (Ind-Ra) believes an increase in the capex would enhance the State’s productive capacity and hence be supportive of medium- to-long-term growth prospects of the state economy,” it said.