1. US to fire another trade salvo
US president Donald Trump has asked his trade department to impose tariffs on at least $50 billion worth of goods coming into the country from China, causing world markets to skid. Details will be announced after the publishing of a product list, followed by a 30-day consultation period. In 2017, the US received goods worth $505 billion from China, while sending goods worth $130 billion to China. The US’ trade deficit with China has widened from $319 billion in 2013 to $375 billion in 2017. China has responded to Trump’s move with a list of 128 items the US exports to China, of the order of about $3 billion.
2. Facebook loses 10% market value in a week
The share price of social media giant Facebook declined 10% in the week—and its market value about $45 billion—after news broke over the weekend that Cambridge Analytica, a UK-based data analytics firm that worked on several election campaigns, had used data from 50 million Facebook user accounts to create targeted marketing campaigns for political parties. It stabilized after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg issued an apology and promised the company would review its privacy laws, before falling again in Thursday’s market crash following the US facing off with China on the trade front.
3. India’s flagship schemes lag in execution
The top six infrastructure initiatives of the current BJP-led Indian government, which have received nearly $5.5 billion, have so far reportedly spent just about a fifth of that amount, or around $1.2 billion, according to a parliamentary committee report. The ‘Smart Cities’ programme, which has been allotted $1.5 billion, has used just $27.9 million (1.9%), the lowest percentage among the top six initiatives. The maximum usage has been by the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana, which is in the livelihoods space.
4. India record 20th last-ball finish in T20s
Dinesh Karthik smashed 29 in 8 balls, including a six of the last ball, to help India beat Bangladesh in the finals of the Nidahas T20 tri-series in Colombo. This was the 20th last-ball finish in T20 internationals and India’s second. Of the 20-last ball finishes, Sri Lanka all sides lead with 4 last-ball finishes—twice as many as any other side.
5. Rail bookings via reservation centres on the decline
The number of Indian Railway tickets booked via reservation centres is on the decline. From 148 million in 2015-16, it fell to 140 million in 2016-17, minister of state of railways Rajen Gohain said in a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha. This is expected to fall further in 2017-18, given that the number for the 11-month period to February stands at 116 million. Across India, there are 3,458 reservation centres, with the maximum under Northern Railways (418).
6. Domestic air traffic grows 24% in February
Continuing their strong growth, domestic airlines registered a 24.1% year-on-year increase in the number of passengers carried in February 2018—the highest since January 2017. In the last 14 months, domestic airlines have recorded year-on-year growth above 15% as many as 12 times. March, though, will be a test. On 12 March, the aviation regulator grounded 11 aircraft belonging to IndiGo and GoAir due to engine issues, forcing them to cut flights on 41 routes for two weeks.
7. US central bank hikes key interest rate by 0.25 percentage point
The US central bank on Wednesday raised the US federal funds rate by 0.25 percentage points. This rate, which helps determine rates for mortgages, credit cards and other borrowing, will now hover in a range of 1.5%-1.75%, from 1.25%-1.5% previously. As of February 2018, the rate was 1.42%. The US Federal Reserve has indicated that it is likely to raise this rate three to four times this year. US central bankers have projected a median federal funds rate of 2.9% by 2019 end and 3.4% by 2020.
8. Vladimir Putin re-elected for fourth term
Russian president Vladimir Putin has been re-elected for a fourth term, with a 74% vote. If he completes his stay in office till 2024, extending his rein in power to nearly a quarter of a century, he will become the first Kremlin leader since Josef Stalin to serve two decades in power. Since the formation of the Russian Federation in 1991, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the country has had four presidents. Putin was president from 2000 to 2008. Since Russian laws don’t allow a president more than two consecutive terms, he became prime minister till 2012, before returning as president.
9. HCC falls 17% on reports of likely Lavasa bankruptcy
Shares of Hindustan Construction Company Ltd (HCC) tumbled 17.3% on Thursday after a media report said its subsidiary, Lavasa Corp. Ltd, is likely to file for bankruptcy. However, HCC later stated the article was misleading and that it was working with its consortium of lenders to reach a financial solution for its subsidiary. Lavasa is India’s first planned hill city, privately built from scratch.
10. Foreign tourist arrivals up 10% in February
The number of foreign tourist arrivals in India stood at 1.05 million in 18 February, a growth of 10.1% over February 2017 (956,000). Bangladesh topped the list of source countries, accounting for 18.3% of foreign tourists, followed by the US and the UK. During February 2018, 276,000 foreign tourists arrived on an e-tourist visa, a growth of 62% over the 170,000 in February 2017.
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