The First Forum is an initiative which focuses on covering the latest happenings going around in the world in a brief format. This is in lieu with the importance of catching up with these events in this fast changing world.
In this Third Edition of The First Forum we would be covering the following:
1. Business
2. Economics
3. Finance
4. Science and Technology


(By Ankita Punjani, Divyansh Gupta, Mehak Gupta)

US pushing India to buy $5-6 billion more farm goods to seal trade deal
The United States wants India to buy at least another $5-6 billion worth of American farm goods if New Delhi wants to win reinstatement of a key US trade concession and seal a wider pact, four sources familiar with the talks told Reuters. Read MoreUS President Donald Trump cited trade barriers last year when removing India from its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programme that allowed zero tariffs on $5.6 billion of exports to the United States. In retaliation, India slapped higher tariffs on more than two dozen US products. Ahead of a Trump visit to New Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi next month, negotiators on both sides are hammering out terms for a trade deal that would include New Delhi rolling back higher tariffs on some farm goods such as almonds, walnuts and apples.

India may cut 50% import tariff on Harley-Davidson to Crack Deal
Ahead of a Trump visit to New-Delhi to meet PM Modi next-month, negotiators on both sides are hammering out terms for a trade-deal that would include New-Delhi rolling back higher tariffs on some farm goods such as almonds,Read More walnuts and apples and US restoring duty benefits on $5.6billion of Indian exports according to sources. Both governments had hoped to work-out a limited trade deal last year, but struggled to reach an agreement. India has offered a commitment to increase purchase of almonds and apples and scrape an import tariff of 50% levied on Harley Davidson bikes as part of the deal.

Tesla becomes first US automaker to cross $100 Billion mark
Tesla Inc has overtaken Germany’s Volkswagen as the world’s second most valuable carmaker behind Japan’s Toyota, as the meteoric rise in the US electric vehicle maker’s shares reshuffles the global market. Read MoreIt is the first listed US automaker to top the $100 billion mark. Tesla’s stock has more than doubled in value in the last three months. Tesla’s market capitalisation was roughly $103.1 billion, exceeding Volkswagen’s $99.8 billion and trailing only Toyota Motor Corp. It is believed that it will trigger a huge pay out for Elon Musk if he can sustain the feat for months.

Flipkart may overtake Walmart’s cash-and-carry business in India
Flipkart group is set to acquire stake in its parent company Walmart to take over its loss-making cash and carry stores, according to reports. It will include 28 Best Price stores and three warehouse properties, as the two groups look at consolidating operating units and driving synergies. Read MoreThis development comes at a time when Flipkart is looking to expand into the online food and grocery segment with FarmerMart. This move is part of an overall strategy by Flipkart to build its supply chain infrastructure to take on Amazon and Reliance in the race for the B2B segment in the categories like groceries and fresh foods.

NTPC unlikely to conclude THDCIL, NEEPCO acquisition deal this year
State-run power giant NTPC is unlikely to conclude its Rs 10,000-crore acquisition deal to buy government’s stake in THDC India and North Eastern Electric Power Corporation, according to a source. Read MoreThe government was keen to complete the transaction in the ongoing fiscal so as to meet its overall disinvestment target of Rs 1.05 lakh crore for the 2019-20 fiscal. The Department of Disinvestment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) has engaged RBSA Advisors to evaluate NEEPCO and Deloitte for THDCIL transactions Earlier in November last year, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) had approved a proposal of the finance ministry for divestment of central government stake in THDCIL and NEEPCO.

MG Motor India plans to increase SUV Hector production by 30%
MG Motor India plans to increase production of its SUV Hector by around 30 per cent after BS-VI emission norms come into effect from April 1, according to a senior company official. Read MoreThe company, which last week launched the ZS EV, is also set to review plans for a sub-Rs 10 lakh electric vehicle (EV) considering the robust response to its pure electric SUV. The company has received good response to Hector, its first model in India, and retailed 3,021 units in December 2019. Since its launch in July 2019, the carmaker recorded total sales of 15,930 units of the Hector. MG Motor India President and MD Rajeev Chaba said that the company is planning another ramp up of MG Hector in the next two-three months.


(By Gunika Vij, Somya Yadav, Manraj Uppal)

High Expectations from Nirmala Sitharaman
The analysts of the economy are keeping high expectations with the upcoming budget in regard to adjustments in income-tax slabs, easing of the long-term capital gains tax, relief from dividend distribution tax (DDT) and an increase in the government’s capital expenditure. Read MoreIn particular, the relief from DDT will reduce the cost of capital for many MNCs and cash-rich companies. To increase the purchasing power of the people, the government is planning to provide relief of Rs 12,500 as tax rebate and reduce the income tax on investments made under section 80C. On the other hand, this will hurt the fiscal position to upto Rs 25,000 crore. If the budget provides ample provision for capital expenditure, as much as 10% increase from the previous one, the performance of stocks such as L&T, NTPC, Ultratech, Adani Ports etc. will increase manifolds. However, if the budget does not incorporate these measures, the market will suffer a blow.

PDS biggest saver for Government in DBT this year
The public distribution system has turned out to be the biggest saver for the government under the Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme this year. Read MoreIt is reported that 28,000 crore rupees were saved by the government under the direct benefit transfer scheme in this fiscal year. About 19,200 crore rupees of the aforementioned figure came directly from the Public Distribution System. The cumulative savings through DBT since 2014 amount to 1.7 lakh Crore rupees.

Spread of Coronavirus threatens Global Economy
China has been grappling with the outbreak of the mysterious coronavirus for about a month. This deadly disease has spread like a wildfire and has already devoured more than 40 human lives. Read MoreOne of the effects of this outbreak has been the plummet of Chinese stock markets owing to the concerns of the investors. This comes at a time when the Chinese economy is already slowing down due to its trade war with USA. After coupling this with the Indian economic slowdown as well as the onset of right-wing protectionist governments posing a threat to global trade, it is fair to state that the condition of global economy is bleak.

Economic slowdown: IMF predictions proved wrong
A year ago, IMF’s chief economist, Gita Gopinath made a statement saying that the Indian Economy is healthy and projected a growth rate of 7.5% for 2019 and 7.7% for 2020. Not to our surprise, the Indian economy responded in the opposite manner as predicted by other credible and non-partisan observers. Read MoreThe incompetency of this organisation is proven by the fact that it could not foresee a high magnitude downturn in the economy which has brought the growth rate to 4.8% in 2019, 2.7% less than that predicted. Gopinath attributed the slowdown in the economy with the crisis in the financial sector, especially non-bank financial companies, and subsequent negative investor sentiments. The most hit are the average Indian population facing high levels of unemployment, close to stagnant growth and reduced job opportunities.

India’s Direct Tax collection lower than expected
Reports indicate that India’s direct tax collection is likely to fall for the first time in over two decades. The government had expected to collect 13.5 lakh crore rupees in direct taxes by the time the fiscal year ended. Read MoreHowever, the tax department has only been able to collect 7.3 lakh crore rupees as of yet. The main reason for this is the sharp decline in demand which has brought down the economic growth rate to below 5%.


(By Aditya Jain)

US Dollar Dips vis-à-vis the Japanese Yen
Concerns over the Chinese Virus coronavirus rises as the Virus is detected in the State of Chicago. The virus having now affecting the city of Wuhan has caused serious concerns among the investors. Read MoreAs investors pull out their money from the Chinese Yuan, the Japanese Yen has received the highest investment leading to an appreciation of Yen vis-à-vis the dollar. Traditionally, too the yen has invited the maximum number of investors at times of geopolitical distress, which is primarily due to Japan’s status as the World’s largest creditor. The dollar too is considered as a safe haven of investment and thus, received tremendous inflows which led to its appreciation vis-à-vis the Euro.

Steps to ease NBFC Liquidity Crises Short Term: Fitch Report
According to the Fitch Report, the government efforts to provide partial credit guarantee to public sector banks on their asset purchases from NBFC’s can ease the funding pressure, but only in the Short Run. Read MoreThis step by the government does not solve the long-standing demand of the investors regarding solving the NBFC exposure to stressed real estate assets. Further, the provision applies only to the Financially Sound NBFC’s which suggests that weaker entities will still have to fend for themselves. The government would cover up to Rs. 1 trillion of issuance which according to the report could solve the liquidity crises for the next 6 months and not after that.

FPI Pour in January; Analysts owe this to US-China Deal
Foreign Portfolio Investors have infused a net sum of Rs. 1624 crores in the month of January. This is perceived as a positive sentiment hovered by the First Phase of the US-China Trade Deal. Read MoreThe major investment is on account of equities which received a net Rs. 13,304 crores. On the Domestic Front too, the change of norms can invite investments in the future particularly in the Debt Segment. The recent change of norms by RBI by increasing the Short-Term Investment Limit from 20 to 30 percent of the total FPI in either central government securities or State Development Loans is a step towards this direction.

China’s Digital Yuan could help countries evade US Sanctions
The people’s bank of China is developing China’s Digital Yuan which would potentially allow some countries to avoid US Sanctions and give more power to the Chinese Government. One of the situations involved here was the development of a nuclear missile by North Korea capable to reach the US.Read More It is alleged that it was funded by the Digital Yuan which allowed it to bypass the global banking system and US Sanctions. This development is been seen as a major threat to the national security of the US, as for it, Financial Sanctions are an important tool. Rogoff (a Harvard University professor and Economist) noted that US currently has sanctions over 12 countries including Russia, and the digital yuan could well be on the verge to disrupt America’s ability to leverage faith in its currency for pursuing long term national interests.

Allahabad Bank approves Capital Infusion
Allahabad bank approves capital infusion of Rs 2153 crore ahead of the merger with Indian bank, through the issue of preferential shares. The capital infusion falls second in line after the government had infused Rs 6896 crore earlier in the Financial year. Read MoreAs per analysts this is for meeting the regulatory capital norms laid down by the RBI. The CAR (Capital Adequacy Ratio) as laid down by RBI should be at least 9% and Allahabad banks CAR after the third quarter stood at 10.92 percent. It is also believed that in order to raise funds, the bank might also partially exit stake at its insurance joint venture Universal Sompo General Insurance Company.

Science and Technology

(By Shruti Jha, Nikunj Gulati, Kanika)

ESA Opens Oxygen Plant – Making Breathable Air Out of Moondust
A prototype oxygen plant has been set up in the Materials and Electrical Components Laboratory of the European Space Research and Technology Center. At the same time, production fuel for rocket launches is also produced from Moondust. ARead Moredding to this, now that an entire lab is available only for working on moon dust and its transformation, we can expect many more developments and applications from the same. The most important development would be in the scenario which scientists all around the globe have been working on which is living on the moon. This recent advancement of finally being able to produce oxygen has improved the sustainability and possibility of project exponentially.

Sea level rise could reshape the US, trigger migration island
The impact of rising sea levels could trigger a mass migration that would force more than 13 million people in the US. Effects could include more competition for jobs, increased housing prices and more pressure on infrastructure networks. Read MoreAccording to the researchers, the most popular relocation cities will include landlocked cities such as Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Denver, and Las Vegas. The study conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California (USC), is the first to use machine learning models to project migration patterns. Based on this, the team trained machine learning models – a subset of artificial intelligence to predict where people would relocate. The result of the study could help city planners and policymakers to make a plan to expand critical infrastructure, from roads to medical services, to ensure the influx of people who has a positive impact on local economies and social wellbeing.

Egyptian mummy speaks after 3000 years
Scientists have fulfilled a mummified Egyptian Nesyamun priest’s wish for life after death by replicating his voice with Artificial vocal cards who sang and chanted words of worship at the Karnak temple in Thebes. Read MoreIn death, he was ritually mummified and sealed his coffin with the inscription “Nesyamun, true of voice”. Now some 3000 years into the afterlife and with the aid of 3D printed vocal tract, he can once again be heard. David Howard of the University of London and his team used 3D printing and body scanning technology to recreate the voice of an ancient Egyptian priest. One such technology is a “vocal tract organ” that can play vowel sounds through a 3D printed replica of a larynx. Nesyamun’s mummified remains are on display at Leeds City Museum.

Oil-Catching Sponge: Solution for Oil-Contaminated Wastewater
Seabeds have always been one of our main sources of oil, but the tiny droplets of oil which get spilled end up causing much trouble in the process. Now, researchers at the University of Toronto and Imperial College London have developed a sponge that removes over 90 percent of oil microdroplets from wastewater within ten minutes.Read More After capturing oil from wastewater, the sponge can be treated with a solvent, which releases the oil from the sponge. The oil can then be recycled; the sponge, ready to be used again. Although, the efficiency of this process largely depends on the Acidity and alkalinity of oil. Thus, taking this project from treating industrial waste to marine waters might be a problem.

Trump reveals Space Force logo, Gets Mocked
President Donald Trump revealed the official logo for the Space Force. He tweeted: “After consultation with our great military leaders, designers and others, I am pleased to present the new logo for the United States Space Force, the sixth branch of our magnificent military!”. Read MoreThe only problem is that it looks an awful lot like that of Star Trek. The Star Trek Franchise began in the 1960s, Starfleet is a fictional organization controlled by the United Federation of Planets. George Takei, who played the role of Mr. Sulu in the long-running television series Star Trek tweeted in response, ” Ahem. We are expecting some royalties from this”. The President was mocked in social media by those who pointed out the striking resemblance between the two insignia. On Twitter, Trump was accused of plagiarism.

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