India replaces France as world’s 6th biggest economy

India’s GDP amounted to $2.597 trillion at the end of last year, against $2.582 trillion for France

India has become the world’s sixth-biggest economy, pushing France into seventh place, according to updated World Bank figures for 2017. India’s gross domestic product (GDP) amounted to $2.597 trillion at the end of last year, against $2.582 trillion for France. India’s economy rebounded strongly from July 2017, after several quarters of slowdown blamed on economic policies pursued by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

India, with around 1.34 billion inhabitants, is poised to become the world’s most populous nation, whereas the French population stands at 67 million. This means that India’s per capita GDP continues to amount to just a fraction of that of France which is still roughly 20 times higher, according to World Bank figures.

Manufacturing and consumer spending were the main drivers of the Indian economy last year, after a slowdown blamed on the demonetisation of large banknotes that Modi imposed at the end of 2016, as well as a chaotic implementation of a new harmonised goods and service tax regime.

India has doubled its GDP within a decade and is expected to power ahead as a key economic engine in Asia, even as China slows down.

According to the International Monetary Fund, India is projected to generate growth of 7.4% this year and 7.8% in 2019, boosted by household spending and a tax reform. This compares to the world’s expected average growth of 3.9%.

The London-based Centre for Economics and Business Research, a consultancy, said at the end of last year that India would overtake both Britain and France this year in terms of GDP, and had a good chance to become the world’s third-biggest economy by 2032.

At the end of 2017, Britain was still the world’s fifth-biggest economy with a GDP of $2.622 trillion. The US is the world’s top economy, followed by China, Japan and Germany.


India, UK set to sign GBP 1 bn biz deals

India and the UK are expected to sign business deals exceeding GBP 1 billion (Rs 83,00 crore) during the three-day visit of British Prime Minister Theresa May, who is here on her first bilateral visit outside Europe since assuming office in July.

Describing her talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as good and productive, May said as leaders, they both were working to improve the livelihoods of their citizens creating jobs, developing skills, investing in infrastructure and supporting technologies of the future.Talking about Modi’s vision of smart cities, May said they have agreed on a new partnership that will bring together government, investors and experts to work together on urban development, unlocking opportunities worth GBP 2 billion for British businesses over the next five years.

This will focus on the dynamic state of Madhya Pradesh with plans for more smart cities than anywhere else and the historic city of Varanasi.

Four rupee-denominated bonds worth a total of 600 million pounds ($748 million) are expected to be listed in London in the next three months, Theresa May said.

The latest four bonds will provide financing to expand India’s highway and rail networks and meet its plans to boost energy efficiency and renewable energy, the government said.

They will be issued by Indian government-backed corporates Indian Railway Finance Corporation, Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency, Energy Efficiency Services Limited, and National Highways Authority of India by the end of January 2017. May said since July, more than 900 million pounds rupee-denominated bonds have been issued in London, equivalent of more than 70 percent of the global offshore market.

“This government will continue to work closely with both India and our financial services sector to ensure our growing rupee bond market continues to help finance India’s ambitious infrastructure investment plans,” May said in a statement. These rupee-denominated or masala bonds as they are called, unveiled in 2015, are an opportunity for Indian firms to raise money, while giving international investors access to higher yields in a zero-yield world.

They are also a way to borrow overseas, they are also an attempt to make the tightly-controlled rupee more widely available in global markets, similar to the way in which China has moved to sell more yuan debt to overseas investors. Alongside this, the UK has agreed to invest GBP 120 million in a joint fund that will leverage private sector investment from the City of London to finance Indian infrastructure.


Brexit to hit eurozone growth, says IMF

The International Monetary Fund has cuts its economic growth forecasts for the eurozone in the wake of the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.

The eurozone is expected to grow by 1.6% this year and 1.4% in 2017. Before the referendum the IMF had predicted growth of 1.7% for both years.

The IMF also revised down its 2018 growth forecast to 1.6% from 1.7%.

It said medium-term growth prospects for the 19-member bloc were “mediocre” due to high unemployment and debt.

Mahmood Pradhan, deputy director of the IMF’s European Department, said the outlook could worsen if drawn-out negotiations between the UK and the EU led to a continuation of recent trends in financial markets – where investors have shunned riskier assets.

“If that risk aversion is prolonged, we think the growth impact could be larger and at this point, it is very difficult to tell how long that period lasts,” he said in a conference call.

The revised 2017 figure was the IMF’s “best case” scenario, assuming a deal was struck that allowed the UK to retain its access to the EU’s single market, Mr Pradhan said.

However, if the UK decided not to maintain close ties with the EU and chose to rely on World Trade Organization rules, there could be “major disruptions,” he said.

Mr Pradhan added it was “very, very early days to have any strong sense of confidence” about what the eventual relationship between the UK and EU would be.

In the medium-term, challenges such as high unemployment and persistent structural weaknesses in the euro area would continue to weigh on growth, the IMF said.

“As a result, growth five years ahead is expected to be about 1.5%, with headline inflation reaching only 1.7%,” the report said.

It also said that as the euro area was such a big player in world trade, any slowdown could have an impact on other economies, including emerging markets, but it expected this to be “limited”.


No World Recession From Brexit But Risks High, Says IMF’s Lagarde

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde said that Britain’s shock vote to quit the European Union has injected significant uncertainty into the global economy but is unlikely to cause a world recession.

But in an exclusive interview with AFP, she also said that Brexit underscores the need for the EU to do a better explaining how it benefits Europeans, amid “disenchantment” with the institution.

And she said that Britain’s move to cut corporate taxes to counter the expected economic fallout from its choice to break with the EU was just a “race to the bottom” that could hurt everyone.

Two weeks after the British referendum on cutting its EU ties, Ms Lagarde, speaking in her Washington offices at the beginning of her second five year term as IMF managing director, called the event a “major downside risk” for the world.

“We don’t think that a global recession is very likely. The immediate effects will be on the UK,” with some spillover into the euro area, she said.

Yet the longer the process for Britain’s withdrawal remains unclear, the worse the effects could be, she said. “The key word about this Brexit affair is uncertainty and the longer the uncertainty, the higher the risk,” she said.

“The sooner they can resolve their timeline and the terms of their departure the better for all. It needs to be predictable as soon as possible.”

But Ms Lagarde, who during her first five years leading the Fund has already endured a substantial amount of turmoil in Europe, said she remained positive over the outcome.

“There will be spillover effects on the euro area. But my optimistic approach of life tells me that Brexit could be a catalyst that could push the EU to deepen its economic integration.”


Brexit offers lifeline on $800 billion emerging company debt

Britain’s vote to exit the European Union (EU) has thrown a lifeline to emerging-market companies facing an $800 billion wall of maturing debt.

By hindering the Federal Reserve’s plan to raise interest rates, the referendum result has led to speculation borrowing costs will remain lower for longer as policy makers attempt to prevent Europe’s turmoil turning into a recession. This means developing-nation companies that borrowed when it was cheaper to do so won’t have to pay more to service those bonds, at least for now.

The prospect of fewer defaults shows how the so-called Brexit vote is proving a blessing for developing-nation companies that need to pay back about $200 billion per year from 2017 to 2020. Economists from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to the Bank for International Settlements have been warning Fed monetary tightening may set off an increase in corporate failures in emerging markets. Defaults have been climbing since 2013 and reached a seven-year high in the second quarter.

“We might even see a decline in default rates again in the third and fourth quarters of this year,” said Apostolos Bantis, a Dubai-based credit analyst at Commerzbank AG, who recommends investing in Latin American company bonds. “The overall outlook now is more positive for emerging-markets corporates because the Fed is very unlikely to move any time soon following the Brexit.”

Uncertain outcomes

The policy uncertainty engulfing the developed world has boosted the appeal of emerging countries, usually viewed by investors as more vulnerable to political risk. Yields on a Bloomberg index tracking developing-nation corporate bonds have fallen 27 basis points to 5.19% since the UK vote, adding to a recovery that started when oil prices began rebounding from a 20 January low.

The sentiment shift means that defaults are probably past their peak, according to Kathy Collins, an analyst at Aberdeen Asset Management in London. By 28 June, S&P Global Ratings had recorded 10 emerging-market corporate defaults in the second quarter, the worst quarterly tally since mid-2009. The rating company’s 12-month junk-bond default rate climbed to 3.2% at the end of May from 2.9% at the end of April.

“Given where commodity prices are at the moment, we’re not expecting too many more defaults,” Collins said. “In the first six months of this year, we’ve seen a lot of companies be very proactive in terms of tenders and buybacks in the market.”

Buying back

Russia’s Novolipetsk Steel PJSC and shipping operator Sovcomflot OJSC have announced they intend to buy back debt totaling as much as $2 billion. Latin American bonds sales surged over the past week, which HSBC Holdings Plc partly attributed to an increased likelihood of “ultra-low global policy rates” for longer. Brazilian meat packer Marfrig Global Foods SA sold $250 million of securities to repurchase outstanding notes in a push it said would “lengthen its debt maturity profile and reduce the cost of its capital structure.”

The issuance boom may prove short lived if the prospect of Fed tightening re-emerges. The UK’s vote to end its 43-year association with the EU has also ushered in a period of uncertainty for global markets that may eventually turn investors off developing-world assets. In June, the BIS reiterated a warning that emerging market non-bank borrowers that have accumulated $3.3 trillion in dollar debt are coming under strain as their economies slow and currencies weaken.

“If we get some volatility in emerging markets, say from political noise coming from the EU, and there is no access to capital markets from some issuers, that could be really negative,” Badr El Moutawakil, an emerging-market credit strategist at Barclays Plc in London said.

Even after the Brexit dust settles, looming elections in the US, Germany, France and possibly the UK mean a lengthening list of potentially disruptive events, strengthening the hands of dovish central bankers. Emerging-market companies have raised $3.71 billion of international bonds since the UK’s referendum on 23 June.

“External factors are more supportive,” said Bantis from Commerzbank. “The default trend of the past quarter is unlikely to continue.” Bloomberg


What’s India’s strategy to beat Brexit? Here’s a sneak peak

India is considering recalibrating its strategy, including renegotiating its tariff offers, for the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU following Brexit, with demands from key sectors for a separate trade pact with the UK gathering pace, sources said. But with both the EU and the UK busy grappling with Brexit, serious trade negotiations are unlikely to start anytime soon.

Textiles secretary Rashmi Verma told FE: “Britain continues to be an important market for us, as it makes up for around 23% of the EU demand for Indian textiles and garments. We have requested the commerce ministry to look into the possibility of a bilateral preferential trade agreement (PTA) with the UK.”

The UK accounts for over a half of India’s software services exports to the EU, 23% of key engineering and electrical goods exports and 16% of jewellery, precious metal and stones exports. So, senior industry executives from these sectors endorse an FTA or PTA with the UK. Britain alone accounted for 3.4% of India’s goods exports in 2015-16, while the EU – including the UK – made up for 17%.

Nasscom president R Chandrashekhar said once the current storm settles down, the UK will also be looking to compensate itself for no longer being part of the EU trade bloc.

“At that time, a special trade arrangement or relation with India will become crucial to them. And for India, it will perhaps be a tad easier to negotiate with one nation instead of the entire EU,” he said. He, however, added that much will depend on the exact terms and conditions of Britain’s exit from the EU.

Meanwhile, sources said the government is open to a trade pact with the UK, but India also remains committed to taking the proposed EU FTA talks to its logical end. “The EU isn’t ignorable just because Britain has decided to be out of the bloc,” said one of the sources.

However, the Brexit has added to the workload of Indian negotiators as they have to deal with the UK separately now. As such, the FTA with the EU is still a work in progress, so there is a scope for renegotiation of offers in view of the Brexit reality, said the source. The government is closely monitoring the situation and a final call will be taken at an appropriate time, the source added.

With the depreciation of the pound, euro and Chinese yuan following the Brexit referendum, India’s export competitiveness to these regions has come under strain. If the situation persists, a trade pact with the UK or the EU will come handy, as fears of China pegging its currency to its advantage loom, said analysts. The pound, euro and the Chinese yuan have depreciated almost 12%, 2.3% and 1%, respectively, against the dollar while the rupee has appreciated 0.1% between the closing of June 23 and July 1.

But a foreign diplomat posted in New Delhi said: ”Their (the EU’s) job is already cut out. They have to first finalise the terms of the British exit, which is a mammoth and complex task. Both the parties have to recalibrate their strategy even at the WTO. In such a situation, starting another front of negotiations (with India) could take some time,” he said.

As such, differences already persist on the broad contours of the proposed FTA, including on EU’s insistence that India cut import duties on auto parts and wine and strengthen intellectual property rights regime and Indian demand for greater liberalisation in services.

Anwarul Hoda, a former deputy director general at the WTO and current chair professor for trade policy at Icrier, said the Brexit holds some potentially good news for India, apart from the obvious shocks. “The UK is more liberal than the rest of the EU. So, it could still be easier for India to clinch an FTEU-FTAA with the UK than with the EU.”

There is a fair amount of chance that an FTA with the UK, if talks are initiated simultaneously, will be sealed before such a deal with the EU, he said. In fact, Britain doesn’t have the same baggage as the EU. For instance, the UK may not stubbornly insist on the removal of tariff barriers in automobiles as the EU, as the former isn’t a major auto player.

The EU hasn’t yet given the dates for a resumption of the FTA talks, said the source mentioned earlier. Recently, commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman had written to her EU counterpart, asking for dates to resume the negotiations.


India, UK strike 3.2 bn pound deal on energy, climate change

The package encompasses 3.2 billion pounds of commercial agreements and initiatives to share technical, scientific, and financial and policy expertise.

Ahead of the Paris climate summit, India and Britain have agreed on a comprehensive package of collaboration on energy and climate change which includes commercial deals worth 3.2 billion pounds.

During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ongoing UK visit, the two countries reaffirmed the importance of addressing climate change and promoting secure, affordable and sustainable supplies of energy that will support economic growth, energy security and energy access.

“The UK and India’s partnership on energy is going from strength to strength. We share world-class expertise in research and innovation. The UK’s experience in green finance and technology in particular makes us well-placed to work together to promote secure, affordable and sustainable supplies of energy and address climate change,” said UK energy and climate change secretary Amber Rudd.

“The upcoming talks in Paris will be a crucial moment in the fight against climate change and I am pleased to be able to work closely with India to ensure that the deal we secure helps to keep the below 2 degree limit on global warming within reach,” she added.

The package encompasses 3.2 billion pounds of commercial agreements, joint research programmes and initiatives to share technical, scientific, and financial and policy expertise.

This is aimed at encouraging the research, development and eventual deployment of clean technology, renewables, gas and nuclear.

As part of the package, Britain also announced the UK Climate Investments joint venture with the Green Investment Bank. This will invest up to 200 million pounds in renewable energy and energy efficiency in India and Africa.

The two countries also agreed on the need for an ambitious and comprehensive global agreement to tackle climate change in Paris later this month and that the agreement should signal to investors and innovators the long term commitment of governments to clean and more sustainable economies.

Modi and his UK counterpart David Cameron also welcomed the completion of negotiations for a Nuclear Cooperation Agreement and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) related to closer civil nuclear collaboration between the UK and India.