The recent spike in Covid-19 cases along with associated lockdowns, though localised, could disrupt foreign portfolio investments as well as domestic credit markets, said India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra).
According to Ind-Ra, India's second round of Covid outbreak is moving in a direction different from the global trend.
"The cases seem to have abated in major countries and the massive vaccination drive is expected to anchor any meaningful surge. Therefore, the counter trends coupled with spurt in daily cases would be the cause for concern in the near term," the agency said in a report.
"While the mortality rates have remained benign, the infection rate is increasing at a much faster rate than earlier."
Notably, the agency expects that India's vaccination drive would minimise the impact, the duration would be a function of its pace.
However, the agency cited mounting Covid-19 cases in India as opposed to benign conditions in advance economies could have an adverse effect on the investors' risk appetite.
"Also, a sharp economic recovery and reflationary trend have already been causing a rise in global yields. This also is a negative factor for risky assets such as equity."
"Foreign portfolio investments (FPIs), especially into the equity, have been reasonably strong in recent months, any reversal from the trend however could destabilise the ongoing favourable conditions across the financial markets."
Similarly, for the domestic credit markets, the agency said that amid a cautious financial system, the condition was improving, allowing low rated issuers to access capital though at a significantly high cost.
"Some of these gains could reverse and risk aversion could increase. The agency believes conducive financing options is necessary, and volatile capital market condition impinges such proposition."
"The agency however also believes the enormous banking system liquidity and proactiveness from the Reserve Bank of India will alleviate the risk of a market failure."
As per the report, the domestic G-Sec market is likely to stay benign on the renewed hope from a further monetary easing in case the situation worsens considerably.
"At the same time, any outflow from the capital market or pressure on balance of payment would open up room for the regulator to conduct open market purchases."
Taking its war against Jack Ma-founded empire to a serious level, Chinese regulators on Saturday slapped a record fine of 18.2 billion yuan ($2.8 billion) on e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding.
The fine was imposed on Alibaba for violating anti-monopoly rules as the country seeks to rein in the power of internet conglomerates.
"Alibaba accepts the penalty with sincerity and will ensure its compliance with determination," the Hangzhou-based company said in a statement.
"To serve its responsibility to society, Alibaba will operate in accordance with the law with utmost diligence, continue to strengthen its compliance systems and build on growth through innovation," it added.
According to South China Morning Post (owned by Alibaba), the fine on Ma's company by the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) was more than double the previous record of 6.1 billion yuan paid by chip-maker Qualcomm.
In November, China proposed sweeping antitrust regulations targeting its tech industry and in December, SAMR launched an antitrust probe into Alibaba.
The regulators SAMR, determined that Alibaba had been "abusing market dominance" since 2015 by forcing its merchants to sell on one of the two main e-commerce sites in China instead of letting them choose freely.
In an opinion piece on Saturday, People's Daily said the fine by no means denies the "important role of internet platforms in economic and social development", nor does the fine mean any change in the state's attitude of supporting internet platforms.
The fine was "aimed to promote healthy and continuous development of the country's internet industry," it added.
The Chinese government last month asked the conglomerate Alibaba to dispose of its media assets.
According to a The Wall Street Journal report citing people familiar with the matter, Chinese officials are more "concerned about the technology giant's sway over public opinion in the country".
Alibaba expanded its footprint in the media sector by acquiring the South China Morning Post, an English-language newspaper launched 118 years ago in Hong Kong.
The company also has notable media holdings in mainland China, including technology news site 36Kr, state-owned Shanghai Media Group, stakes in the Twitter-like Weibo platform and several popular Chinese digital and print news outlets.
China's top market watchdog began investigation into alleged anti-competition practices by the e-commerce giant Alibaba and also laid out "rectification plan" for Ma's fintech venture.
The agenda was that Ant Group should return to its roots in payments and bring more transparency to transactions.
Ma later disappeared from the public view, triggering speculation of him going "missing". He was seen only in January when a video of him appeared on Chinese social media.
Alibaba's holdings in publicly listed companies had a combined market value of more than $8 billion.
The death toll from the floods and landslides triggered by tropical cyclone Seroja in Indonesia's East Nusa Tenggara province has increased to 167 with 45 still missing, the National Disaster Management Agency said.
The agency's head Doni Monardo said 165 dead victims were reported in East Nusa Tenggara province and two others were in West Nusa Tenggara, reports Xinhua news agency.
"Besides, 45 people are still under search, eight were severely injured and 148 were slightly wounded," Monardo told a virtual press conference late Friday.
He said that 17,834 people were displaced, 160 public facilities affected and three villages are still isolated.
In East Nusa Tenggara, 2,786 houses were severely devastated, 213 moderately destroyed and 6,185 slightly damaged, while in West Nusa Tenggara, 380 houses were severely hit, 2,176 moderately destroyed, and 2,777 slightly damaged.
Monardo said that the Health Ministry has sent a number of medical workers including orthopedists and anaesthetists to the affected areas.
Authorities have also deployed teams to handle trauma healing, especially in the worst-hit areas such as Adonara, Lembata, and Alor.
Seroja is the 10th tropical cyclone hitting Indonesia since 2008 but had the worst impact as it made landfall.
Currently, Seroja has moved away from Indonesia's territory, but the impact would still be felt in a number of provinces in the southern part of the country for the next few days.
Prince Philip, the consort of UK's Queen Elizabeth II, passed away on Friday, the Buckingham Palace announced. He was 99.
"It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle," the statement said, the BBC reported.
He had recently been in hospital.
Hailing from the Greek and Danish families, Prince Philip was also the nephew of Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, under whom the country became Independent.
Living in Britain and joining the Royal Navy in 1939, he married Princess Elizabeth in 1947, five years before she became the Queen.
The couple had four children, eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
People working with electronic and the print media will not require e-passes for travelling in the national capital during the night curfew between 10 pm to 5 am.
In its new order, the DDMA has exempted mediapersons from the need to carry e-passes during night curfew hours, a fresh order issued by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) said.
"In partial modification of order dated 6/4/2021 with regard to imposition of night curfew in the NCT of Delhi, the DDMA directs that the category of 'Print and Electronic Media' shall be exempt from the restriction of movement during night curfew on production of valid 'I Card' instead of possession of e-pass. Rest of the contents of the aforesaid order would remain unchanged," DDMA order reads.
The decision has come in view of several mediapersons having been complaining about several issues related to e-pass after the DDMA in its April 6 order has mandated that the mediapersons would require e-passes for travelling during the night curfew.
The DDMA, on April 6 has ordered a night curfew in the national capital between 10 pm to 5 am in view of increasing Covid-19 cases in the city. The authority has so far received a total of 1,19,369 applications of which only 12,068 were approved. As many as 86,909 applications were rejected.
Meanwhile, Delhi recorded 7,437 fresh Covid -19 cases on Thursday, the highest single-day surge this year, while 24 more people died due to the Coronavirus infection, taking the death toll to 11,157, according to the Delhi Government.
The number of active cases rose to 23,181. This is also the first time that over 7,000 cases have been reported in a day this year. The highest single-day spike in Delhi till date - 8,593 cases was reported on November 11.
The Myanmar military's spokesman Zaw Min Tun said the one-year state of emergency imposed by the junta during its February 1 coup could be extended, thereby pushing back potential elections.
He did not give a clear timeline for elections, but said the state of emergency could be extended for six months or more, in excerpts from an interview with CNN published late Thursday, reports dpa news agency.
He said a free and fair vote would have to be held within two years under the country's constitution, but also told the broadcaster "the standard of democracy in Myanmar will not be the same as from Western counties".
Zaw Min Tun also said there is "solid evidence" of the voter fraud which the army has used to justify seizing power, but did not present any proof to CNN.
Civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was detained by the military in the February coup after her National League for Democracy (NLD) party won an election by a landslide.
Local observers have said the vote was credible.
The military's actions have prompted widespread protests, to which soldiers have responded with a violent crackdown on the population.
Nearly 2,850 have been arrested, and at least 598 have been killed, including 48 children, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a non-profit organization.
Zaw Min Tun said the security forces were using "minimum force" against protesters.
"There will be deaths when they are cracking down (on) the riots, but we are not shooting around without discipline," he said.
Amid a major 'vaccine-war' with the Centre, it has emerged that Maharashtra continues to fly high in terms of the inoculation drive despite having nearly-exhausted its stocks, officials said here on Friday.
As per the latest data released for April 9 (today), the state has administered the highest 93,38,531 jabs, comprising 84,35,010 first doses and 903,521 second doses, making it the best performer in the national vaccination programme, officials pointed out.
The state is followed by Rajasthan with 88,07,351 vaccinations comprising 77,72,197 first jabs and 10,35,194 second doses.
Next is Gujarat with 84,75,305 vaccinations including 75,01,404 first doses and 973,901 second jabs.
In the past two days, the Centre and Maharashtra have been engaged in a bitter war of words with the latter accusing the former of 'stepmotherly treatment' for the state which is worst-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Top leaders of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government and Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress said that the Centre has not given sufficient numbers of vaccines to Maharashtra but was allegedly concentrating on Gujarat and other states ruled by Bharatiya Janata Party.
Lashing out at the MVA, BJP's Leader of Opposition Fadnavis said on Thursday evening that the vaccines' "supply is not on the basis of population but purely based on state's performance of execution of vaccination process".
Refuting the MVA leaders' contentions, Fadnavis also pointed out that only three states -- Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan -- have been given over 1-crore doses by the Centre.
While Maharashtra has a population of 12 crore, Gujarat and Rajasthan each have around 6 crore population, and the latter is ruled by Congress, he said.
As per the current figures, Uttar Pradesh ranks fourth with 81,45,161 vaccinations notched till date, comprising 69,51,956 first jabs and 11,93,205 second doses.
At the bottom of the list are less-populated smaller territories like Lakshadweep Islands (10,737), Union Territory of Daman & Diu (28,441), Andaman & Nicobar Islands (30,799), and Union Territory of Dadra & Nagar Haveli (31,851).
US President Joe Biden called gun violence in the country an "epidemic" and an "international embarrassment", as he delivered a speech from the White House introducing new executive actions aimed at addressing the issue.
"Nothing I'm about to recommend in any way impinges on the Second Amendment," Biden said in the Rose Garden during an event on Thursday also attended by Vice President Kamala Harris and Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Further pushing back the idea that tighter gun control amid a recent surge in mass shootings will infringe Americans' right to bear arms, the President said that "no amendment to the Constitution is absolute", reports Xinhua news agency.
"So the idea is just bizarre to suggest that some of the things we're recommending are contrary to the Constitution," he added.
"Gun violence in this country is an epidemic. And it's an international embarrassment."
Laying out a set of executive actions, Biden said he wanted to tighten regulations for the so-called "ghost guns", homemade weapons or firearms that are assembled from parts without serial numbers so that they are more difficult to track.
The President wants the Department of Justice (DOJ) to propose rules requiring that the gun kits be treated as firearms, so that they must bear easy-to-trace serial numbers, and that background checks are required for people purchasing them.
He also directed the DOJ to propose model "red flag" legislation for states that could help keep firearms out of the hands of potentially dangerous people, and to reclassify pistols modified with stabilizer braces to be subject to the National Firearms Act, meaning owners would have to register and pay a fee for the modifications.
The DOJ is also expected to issue a report on gun trafficking, and federal agencies will be paying more attention on using grant programs to intervene in community-based gun violence. Biden is set to nominate David Chipman, a gun control advocate, to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Increasingly under pressure to take action after the back-to-back mass shootings earlier this month in Boulder, Colorado, Atlanta, Georgia, and Southern California, Biden urged Congress to move legislatively, especially calling on the Senate to pass the House-passed bills closing gun control loopholes and expand background checks.
The House-passed bills, however, face slim prospects in the evenly-divided Senate, as Republicans are almost unified in opposing most of the proposals
"Enough prayers, time for some action," Biden said in his plea with lawmakers, conceding that stricter gun restriction proposals that have so far been to no avail even in the face of perpetuating gun violence are making it seem "like our entire political process is broken".
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters later in the day that "there will be more" executive actions by the administration on gun safety.
Facebook and Instagram went down for millions of users for couple of hours in various parts of the world early Friday morning. The outage was the second one in less than a month for the social networking giant.
People took to online outage detector platform DownDetector as they were welcomed with "sorry something went wrong" error message from Facebook and Instagram.
The outage appeared to affect Facebook's internal websites as well, noted in a tweet from famed developer Jane Wong.
Even Facebook's outage dashboard appeared to be having problems.
After couple of hours, Both Facebook and Instagram were back to normal.
On March 19, Facebook and its family of apps like WhatsApp and Instagram recovered from a major global outage caused by a technical issue.
More than 1 lakh users reported issues with Instagram on online outage tracker DownDetector, and over 25,000 users reported issues with WhatsApp.
Facebook messenger users also experienced issues.
"Earlier today, a technical issue caused people to have trouble accessing some Facebook services. We resolved this issue for everyone, and we apologise for any inconvenience," Facebook had said in a statement.
Instagram tweeted: "Some people were having issues with their Instagram accounts earlier, but we're back now. The issue's been fixed and we're sorry for the trouble".
In July last year, millions of users worldwide, including in India, were left clueless when Facebook and its family of apps including WhatsApp and photo-sharing platform Instagram suffered a global outage.
The rapid increase in new cases is credit negative for Indian airports, given the adverse impact on passenger and aircraft traffic, the key revenue driver for the sector, Moody's Investors Service said in a report.
India is in the midst of another Covid-19 wave. Daily infection cases in India breached 1,00,000 on April 4, up from around 25,000 in mid-March.
Before the recent resurgence, India had contained the spread of the virus and infection numbers had fallen after the previous peak in mid-September 2020. The steady decline over that time had allowed for a gradual increase in total airline seat capacity and for domestic passenger traffic to recover to around 60 per cent of the 2019 level by the end of February 2021, the agency said.
The surge in infection numbers will heighten health concerns, renew economic uncertainty and temper consumers' willingness to travel. Higher infection numbers could also force the reintroduction of travel restrictions that will drastically reduce passenger traffic.
Moody's said that most of Indian airports' revenue is linked to airport traffic, including aeronautical revenue that is collected on a per-passenger or aircraft-movement basis, and non-aeronautical revenue such as retail, food and beverage as well as car parking.
For example, Delhi International Airport Limited reported revenue declines across all its business segments, amid a sharp drop in passenger traffic in the nine-month period that ended on December 31, 2020.
Moody's said that a disruption to the recovery in domestic passenger traffic is credit negative for the two rated Indian airports. Revenue decline resulting from a fall in traffic will further dampen already weak financial metrics for DIAL and GMR Hyderabad International Airport Limited (HIAL, Ba2 negative) in the current fiscal year (ending 31 March 2022) and also reduce the funds available for capital spending during the affected period.
Based on daily domestic passenger and aircraft data published by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, passenger traffic has not yet materially dropped despite the rise in infection numbers over the past month, although there are early signs of a slowdown in traffic.
"We believe the impact of a sharp rise in infections on underlying consumer demand could take several weeks to fully materialize. At the same time, a more significant concern for airport traffic will be a reintroduction of travel restrictions, which will limit air travel irrespective of consumer demand, the credit rating agency said.
Tighter restrictions, particularly if they are introduced in more states, could lead to sharp declines in passenger traffic until the situation is contained and could materially cut airport revenue.
Beyond the impact on domestic traffic, the recent outbreak will also likely delay the reopening of international borders, which has recently been postponed to the end of April. Although international passengers only represent a small component of total passenger traffic in India, airports generally earn a higher amount on a per-passenger basis from this segment after accounting for duty-free retail. Duty-free retail accounted for 15 per cent-20 per cent of total non-aeronautical revenue at the rated airports before the pandemic.
Delay in passenger recovery will weigh on airports' credit quality
Rated airports' credit quality will potentially weaken if the severity and duration of the second wave reaches a level that would lead to liquidity stress or challenge their ability to return to a level of cash flow generation which supports their current ratings, Moody's said.
From a liquidity standpoint, both airports completed bond issuances in 2021, proceeds of which will support their ability to continue to fund expansion despite the likely reduction in operating cash flow. In the case of DIAL, proceeds from its $450 million bond will also ensure that the airport can refinance the $288.8 million bond maturity in February 2022.
DIAL's ability to manage the liquidity impact from a further decline in operating cash flow, which we already expected to be negative before the recent outbreak, may improve if the airport can secure an upfront deposit from a pending land sale, or if it is able to draw down from a lease facility it had executed with financiers with weak or unknown credit quality.
The recent statement by the Pakistani premier Imran Khan about the increasing rape and sexual cases in the country has sparked uproar not within the country but also from across the globe. To add more to his criticism, his former wife Jemima Goldsmith has also slammed him over his rape remarks.
In a response to Khan's comments, Jemima did not mince words and blasted her former husband for stating that it is the women's dress and vulgarity that has given rise to rape cases.
"Say to the believing men that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts." Quran 24:31. The onus is on men", maintained Jemima, citing a verse from the Holy Quran to school the Pakistani premier.
Jemima also went on to express her surprise over what she called 'a transformation' in the viewpoints of her former spouse, hoping that it was a mistranslation.
"I'm hoping this is a misquote/mistranslation. The Imran I knew used to say, put a veil on the man's eyes not on the woman," she said.
Pakistani Prime Minister has come under serious criticism on social media outlets along with local and global media, after he linked fahashi (vulgarity) being practiced in female attire as the reason behind the rise in the cases of sexual violence, including rape.
"The whole concept of pardah or covering up or modesty, in Islam, is to keep the temptation in check. There are many such people in society who cannot keep their willpower in check and that it had to manifest itself in some way", he said responding to a question about his government's planned steps to curb the increasing sexual violence, especially against children.
"Divorce rates have gone up by as much as 70 per cent due to vulgarity in the society. There are some fights that government legislation alone could not win. The society must join in", he added.
Khan's comments putting the blame on females attires, linking it to vulgarity and the root cause of rise in rape and sexual assault in the country, sparked a widespread condemnation by the locals, who declared the statement of premier as 'irresponsible' and 'insensitive'.
Khan's comments however, are not new, as he has given similar reasons for banning apps like TikTok, which he said were harming the society's values. However, Khan has badly failed in addressing the root cause to the problem.
Last year, Imran Khan had said that India'a capital New Delhi, had become the rape capital of the world due to obscenity and indecent content shown in Bollywood films.
While Khan may have the habit of ignoring the root cause of increasing cases of sexual abuse and rape in Pakistan, locals are up in arms to put his statement to rest.
"Such suggestions reflect a warped sense of morality, and insensitivity towards a serious problem. More dangerously, they try and provide justifications for the increasing incidence of sexual crimes in Pakistan", stated senior journalist Zahid Hussain.