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 Ninth Edition of The First Forum we would be covering the following:
1. Business
2. Economics
3. Finance
4. Science and Technology

Business

(By Ankita Punjani, Divyansh Gupta, Mehak Gupta)

Coal imports at major ports slip 15 per cent to 75 MT in April-January
Thermal coal imports at the country’s 12 major ports declined 14.98 per cent to 74.60 million tonnes (MT) during April-January this fiscal, as per the Indian Ports Association. The Centre-owned ports had handled 87.74 MT of the dry fuel in the same period of the previous year. Read MoreThe Indian Ports Association (IPA), which maintains cargo data handled by these 12 ports reported percentage variation from previous year in thermal coal handling at 14.98 per cent. Imports of coking and other coal recorded a rise of 1.10 per cent at 47.08 MT during the period. These ports had handled 46.57 MT of coking coal in the corresponding period last fiscal. India is the third-largest producer of coal after China and the US and has 299 billion tonnes of resources and 123 billion tonnes of proven reserves, which may last for over 100 years

IndiGo in talks with Jetstar, Qantas for codeshare partnership
IndiGo is in talks with Sydney-based Qantas Airways and its wholly owned subsidiary Jetstar Airways on codeshare agreements, which allows an airline to sell other airline’s seats. Read MoreCurrently, IndiGo has a two-way codeshare agreement with Turkish Airlines and a one-way codeshare partnership with Qatar Airways. In a two-way codeshare agreement, each airline on its distribution system can sell seats on other’s flights. In November last year, Qatar Airways had signed a one-way codeshare agreement with IndiGo that allows its passengers to book seats on the latter’s flights connecting Doha with the three Indian cities.

Supreme Court dismisses Adani Gas’ plea against piped gas distribution award
The Supreme Court has upheld an award for piped gas distribution network in Chennai and Tiruvallur districts in Tamil Nadu to a Gujarat-based firm by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB). Read MoreA bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta dismissed the appeal filed by Adani Gas Limited and others and justified the action of PNGRB saying that calling the bidders with the highest composite scores cannot be faulted. The Board had granted the award for piped gas distribution network in Puducherry to AG & P LNG, in Chennai and Tiruvallur districts to Torrent Gas Private Limited and to SKN Haryana in Kanchipuram district in 2018. The top court said there is no merit in the submission that there was a breach of the principles of “natural justice” in calling only the bidders with the highest composite score to explain the reasonableness of their bids

US surpasses China to become India’s top trading partner
The US has surpassed China to become India’s top trading partner, showing greater economic ties between the two countries. According to the data of the commerce ministry, in 2018-19, the bilateral trade between the US and India stood at $87.95 billion. Read MoreDuring the period, India’s two-way commerce with China aggregated at $87.07 billion. Similarly, during April-December 2019-20, the bilateral trade between the US and India stood at $68 billion. It stood at $64.96 billion with China in the same period. Trade experts believe that the trend will continue in the coming years also as New Delhi and Washington are engaged in further deepening the economic ties. America is one of the few countries with which India has a trade surplus. On the other hand, India has a huge trade deficit with China. In 2018-19, India has a trade surplus of $16.85 billion with America, while it has a deficit of $53.56 billion with the neighbouring country.

World’s financial firms risk $1 trillion in losses if slow to act on climate change
The world’s financial services sector risks losses of up to $1 trillion if it fails to respond quickly to climate change and is hit by policy shifts, a new report showed. The report comes as pressure on the industry to accelerate efforts to help better allocate capital in the shift to a low-carbon economy ratchets up ahead of United Nations climate talks in November. Read MoreIt found that if carbon taxes were imposed at a level of $50 per tonne of carbon dioxide in two of the most polluting industries – power generation and oil and gas – this would result in estimated credit losses of between $50 billion to $300 billion in both sectors

SBI Card IPO opens on March 2
The $1.25 billion initial public offering (IPO) of SBI Cards and Payment Services, the country’s second-largest credit card issuer, is expected to be the superstar IPO of 2020, as per experts. Read MoreThe much-awaited initial public offering will be opened for subscription from March 2-5. The company plans to issue new shares worth 5 billion rupees and will offer up to 130.5 million shares for sale, the prospectus showed. The subsidiary of the country’s largest lender State Bank of India is yet to announce the price band, but sources told that it is largely expected to be around Rs 750-755 per share.

Puma launches shoes, apparel made of recycled plastic
German sportswear manufacturer Puma has created a new collection of footwear and clothing, made from recycled plastic. Puma teamed up with First Mile to create a sustainable sportswear collection. First Mile is a UK-based waste management and recycling company. Read MorePuma and First Mile recycled more than 1.9 lakh plastic bottles for their new sustainable collection and have diverted about 40 tonnes of plastic waste from landfills and oceans for the products made for 2020. Stefan Seidal, head of corporate sustainability at Puma said that the new apparel connection range from shoes, tees, jackets etc has been made of at least 83%-100% from more sustainable yarns.

Economics

(By Gunika Vij, Manraj Uppal, Somya Yadav)

India needs pro-business, not pro-crony policies, says CEA
Chief economic adviser Krishnamurthy Subramanian said that the goal of taking the country to the $5trillion GDP economy can only be achieved when the Indian economy brings pro business policies and moves away from the pro-crony policies. “Pro business policies are the policies which enable fair competition. Read MoreWhereas pro-crony policies are those which help the incumbent,” said Subramanian. Adding on, focus should be in challenging the incumbent and aim for ‘creative destruction’ rather than just relying on better models and processes for growth. He also highlighted the dependence on only the new works in economics for making policies and neglecting the ancient texts like Arthashastra which are equally important as they focus on ethical ways of creating wealth. The requirements are to move towards open trade policies on intermediate goods and raw materials to enable exports and give enough time for the benefits of rates cut and other reforms to set in.

MODI TRUMP MEET: India emerging as an alternative to China
Tensions grow for China as manufacturers move out of China despite the trade deal with US. This has diverted the attention towards emerging markets of South Asia as far as investment landscapes are concerned. India’s focus on boosting electronics manufacturing shows that India is planning to fill the supply chain gap by shifting to labour- intensive manufacturing. Read MoreMoreover, steps have been taken up to improve the infrastructure in the country which will accelerate this transition. The recent announcement regarding reductions in tax rates for new manufacturing businesses and new resolution policies make India more competitive in the global market. But India is still lagging in the field of labour reforms, hassle free access to raw materials and investments in logistics infrastructure. There’s a great chance of American organisations increase their presence in India in response to the emerging bilateral relationship between the two.

Jammu and Kashmir signs MOU worth 2,100 Crore
One of the major aims of the abrogation of article 370 was to facilitate economic development in the Jammu and Kashmir region. Now reports indicate that the J and K administration has signed MOU’s worth 2,100 crore rupees at an investment summit in Mumbai. Read MoreUnder its Investment facilitation policy, the UT administration is offering land parcels of about 250-300 acres in each of its districts. The UT administration has sought investments from and signed MoUs in other regions as well. These include Kolkata and Bengaluru. The UT is also planning to host a Global Investors summit in Srinagar and Jammu. All these steps are likely to lead to a major economic gain for the region.

Trade war continues in the wake of Trump’s visit to India
The war of words between the US and Indian administration on the issue of trade continued just before Trump’s visit to India. A US government spokesperson said that the Indian budget’s emphasis on ‘Make in India’ is likely to further escalate the tensions. Read MoreOn February 1, the Modi government introduced a slew of tarrifs aimed at combating Chinese imports. However, these tarrifs are also likely to affect many US firms which has invoked a hostile reaction from Donald Trump himself. He stated that India’s limited exclusion from GSP occured due to India’s inability to strike a trade deal with USA. The question of trade is a priority item on the agenda of Trump’s visit to India. Some preliminary steps towards a limited trade deal are expected.

Finance

(By Aditya Jain)

52.8K tonne Gold Reserves Discovered in Uttar Pradesh
A large gold reserve twice the size of the current household stocks of Gold have been found in Sonbhadra District of Uttar Pradesh. This comes after after two decades of heavy exploration of the region by the Geology Survey of India and Uttar Pradesh Directorate of Geology. Read MoreIndia virtually produces no Gold, but its household stock of 25000 tonnes is the highest in the World. Thus, this brings excessive pressure on the Current account as India imports all its demand. The discovery is expected to ease this burden in the future. However, there is one complication that the mines fall in the region of the Forest Department, so clearances have to be taken from the Ministry before proceeding with selling the mining rights.

Centre releases Rs. 19950 Crores as GST Compensation to states
In a move that will surely address the growing concern among states, the centre has releases Rs. 19950 crores as compensation to states and union territories. This takes the total compensation to 1.2 lakh crores. In the budget session Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had told that the GST compensation would be paid in two instalments. Read MoreThe compensation comes at a background that the states were guaranteed that any loss of revenue owing due to GST would be compensated by the centre till 5 years of the program implementation.

Markets to remain volatile till Futures and Options Expiry
Domestic market is expected to remain volatile ahead of derivatives expiry as investors await Donald Trump’s visit to India. Market Analysts are also on the lookout for GDP estimates and infrastructure data due to be released this Friday. Read MoreThe market is on the lookout for any major trade announcement by the US President amidst a time when the Chinese Economy has started to recover due to their continuous efforts.

Gold jumps 2% as Coronavirus cases are discovered outside China
Gold prices climbed more than 2% last Monday, the highest since February 2003, as people look for safe investment havens. This happens as several Coronavirus cases are discovered outside China leading to worries among speculators of a reduced global growth rate. Read MoreThe impact of a lower global growth rate means that the low interest rate environment might prevail longer than expected. As the interest rate falls, the opportunity cost of holding non-interest yielding bullion also falls, which might lead to further demand of the bullion in the future. Other assets that have seen growth is the safe currency havens of the Japanese Yen, the US dollar while Oil has been one of the worst affected assets due to the virus.  

Science and Technology

(By Shruti Jha, Nikunj Gulati, Kanika)

ISRO preparing to launch satellite GISAT 1 in March
Indian Space Research Organisation is all set to launch a new earth observation satellite GISAT 1 in the first week of March this year. The ISRO GISAT 1 satellite will be the first of two planned Indian Earth-observing (EO) spacecraft to be placed in a geostationary orbit of around 36,000 km. Read MoreThis will be Launch from the Sriharikota Satellite launch Centre. Alok Kumar Srivastava, senior ISRO scientist said that the launch of this satellite will keep an eye on our borders with the help of the high-resolution cameras and also observe any changes in the geographical area of the country. An ISRO GSLV II rocket will launch the satellite.

Climate Change is slowly drying up Colorado River
The Colorado River which is 2,330 kilometres long and serves 40 million people from Denver to Phoenix to Las Vegas has seen its flow reduced by 20 per cent compared to the last century. Scientists have found that Climate Change is mainly to blame. Read MoreThere could be a higher risk of water shortage for the states connected with the river. The study conducted by the US Geological Survey scientists Chris Milly and Krista A. Dunne and published in Journal Science adds urgency to efforts to protect one of the country’s most vital rivers. The study highlighted that climate change appears to have led to the loss of snow in the Colorado River Basin, which in turn is thought to have caused the body of water to absorb more solar energy, meaning more water evaporates.

MIT scientists use AI yields new antibiotics
US scientists of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) used an artificial intelligence algorithm to identify powerful antibiotics that kill some of the most dangerous drugs resistant bacteria in the world. Read MoreThe scientists created a machine-learning computer model features that make molecules effective at killing E.coli. Regina Barzilay, a senior researcher at MIT said, “In terms of antibiotics discovery, this is absolutely first”. The study published in the Journal Cell showed that it could kill some strains that are resistant to all known antibiotics. The researchers are planning to work in a pharmaceutical company or non-profit organization, in hopes of developing the new antibiotic for use in humans.

 Artificial intelligence yields new antibiotic
Using a machine-learning algorithm, MIT researchers have identified a powerful new antibiotic compound. In laboratory tests, the drug killed many of the world’s most problematic disease-causing bacteria, including some strains that are resistant to all known antibiotics. Read MoreIt also cleared infections in two different mouse models. In their new study, the researchers also identified several other promising antibiotic candidates, which they plan to test further. They believe the model could also be used to design new drugs, based on what it has learned about chemical structures that enable drugs to kill bacteria. This new molecule decided to be called halicin could be formed as the new neural networks can learn these representations automatically, mapping molecules into continuous vectors which are subsequently used to predict their properties making the work much faster.

Surgeons successfully treat brain aneurysms using a robot
Robotic technology is used in surgery and cardiology, but not for brain vascular procedures. In this study, Canadian researchers report the results of the first robotic brain vascular procedures. They used a robotic system specifically adapted for neurovascular procedures. Read MoreSoftware and hardware adaptations enable it to accommodate microcatheters, guidewires and the other devices used for endovascular procedures in the brain. These modifications also provide the operator additional precise fine-motor control compared to previous system models. In the first case, a 64-year-old female patient presented with an unruptured aneurysm at the base of her skull. The surgical team successfully used the robot to place a stent and then, using the same microcatheter, entered the aneurysm sac and secured the aneurysm by placing various coils. All intracranial steps were performed with the robotic arm. Since this first case, the team has successfully performed five additional aneurysm treatments using the robot confirming the success of the process.

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