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Cash is King – Conserve Cash

When this better time would come is yet another dilemma. I believe that in about 4 to 6 weeks’ time the world would have come out of COVID-19 and we would be in a better frame of mind. Till then follow the old adage — CASH IS KING.

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The markets were under pressure in the week gone by and lost on three of the four trading days. BSESENSEX was down 2,224.84 points or 7.46 per cent at 27,590.75 points whilst NIFTY was down 576.45 points or 6.66 per cent at 8,083.80 points.

The top gaining sector was BSEHEALTHCARE which was up 6.59 per cent while the top losing sector was BSEBANKEX down 13.98 per cent. In individual stocks, the top gainer was Lupin, up 19.74 per cent at Rs 655. The top loser was IndusInd Bank, down 23.78 per cent at Rs 313.25.

The Indian Rupee was under terrific pressure and lost Rs 1.33 or 1.78 per cent to close at Rs 76.22 to the US Dollar. Dow Jones continued its wild swings and lost 584.25 points or 2.70 per cent to close at 21,052.53 points.

Singapore has decided to lockdown from 7th April till the end of the month. SGX or Singapore Stock Exchange would continue to function as it is part of essential services.

SEBI has barred promoters from buying their own shares as the new quarter has started. The insider trading rules debar promoters from buying shares until 48 hours after the results have been declared. This time around they have extended the reporting time of the quarter for declaring results of March 2020 quarter. There was some confusion in media about this being a new rule and there were voices of dissent. There is no such thing and the only reason it has been announced is that with an extended period for declaring results, any management/promoter wanting to buy shares of its company needs to declare results first as was the case always.

COVID-19 continues to be the sore trouble spot for India and the world. The death toll and the number of COVID-19 affected persons is rapidly rising. The number of affected persons globally has risen to over 12.03 lakh patients, while the death toll is at 64,754. In India the number has risen sharply for affected persons to 3,588 and the death toll to 99. In India there has been a very sharp spike in the last couple of days after people who had attended a religious congregation in Delhi are being tracked down and found to be COVID-19 affected. This could be a setback to India’s efforts to contain the virus and may result in the planned lockdown being extended or lifted in a more gradual and phased manner.

Money market timings have been reduced with effect from 7th April and it may be a good idea if the same timings are also extended to the capital market. Volumes in the market have reduced significantly and reduced timings would help the market in reducing volatility as well. Whether the regulator would take heed of the suggestion or not is anybody’s guess but I am sure the market community would be most happy and welcome the suggestion.

Coming to the markets, it has become quite a norm for markets to take one step forward and two steps backward. There is no direction or logic in what’s happening. They lose ground and then there is some recovery. Sector after sector is losing ground and the fall in prices is having a cascading effect on margin calls and revocation of pledged shares as well. The fall in prices of Future Retail saw a broker on the exchanges close shop after firing all its employees. Incidentally the brokerage firm India Nivesh had a former CFO/CEO of Future group as its Managing Director for its Wealth Management arm. Quite surprising that a Former insider of the Biyani group could get so badly trapped in Future group share slide. It could also be that this is the tip of the iceberg on this chapter and more events would unfold shortly.

The current levels at which the markets are attractive enough to invest in selectively. However, the global environment is not conducive and the news flow certainly not heartening. Therefore even though one is tempted looking at the prices, it makes sense to just stay away and wait for better times. When this better time would come is yet another dilemma. I believe that in about 4 to 6 weeks’ time the world would have come out of COVID-19 and we would be in a better frame of mind. Till then follow the old adage — CASH IS KING.

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Belarus President wins Sixth term, Opposition alleges vote-rigging

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Russian President Putin

Soon after the Presidential election was held in Belarus on Sunday. several Belarusian cities saw unauthorized protests. In Minsk, protesters returned and the police used tear gas and flash grenades to disperse the demonstrations.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is being predicted to have won sixth reelection, according to official preliminary results released Monday, with 80 percent of the votes but the outcome been widely disputed amid accusations of vote-rigging.But the clear picture of the results willl be out on Friday.

President of the European Council Charles Michel on Monday urged the Belarusian authorities to respect civil rights and freedoms.”Violence against protesters is not the answer #Belarus Freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, basic human rights must be upheld,” Michel wrote on Twitter.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko accused Russia, Ukraine and Poland for orchestrating protests in Belarus that emerged soon after the election.

According to preliminary results revealed by the Belarusian Central Election Commission, Lukashenko secured 80.23 percent of votes, followed by opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya with 9.90 percent.

Lukashenko also blamed foreign interference for the Internet shut-off.

Sergey Lebedev, the head of the observers mission from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to the presidential election in Belarus, said on Monday that the vote had been conducted in an open, lawful and competitive manner.

The preliminary results of the Belarusian presidential election, held this past Sunday, suggest incumbent president Alexander Lukashenko won over 80 percent of the vote.

“The August 9 election was conducted in compliance with the constitution and electoral code of Belarus. It was open and competitive and ensured that Belarus citizens could freely express their will,” Lebedev said at a briefing.

Candidates, too, had the opportunity to “freely promote their campaigns and speak on the national television,” according to Lebedev.

The team of CIS observers has concluded that both the preparation and process of the election was overall conducted “decently,” as quoted by the mission’s chief.

At the same time, Lebedev pointed out that the vote stood out from Belarus’ previous campaigns by its “political heat.”

“Unfortunately, the vote featured — and we have mentioned it in our statement — statements which were obviously incorrect, provocative and conducive to the escalation of political heat and tension among the public,” the CIS chief observer said.

Lebedev said the detection of inconsistencies in the electoral procedures was a “scattered” occurrence, both for domestic Belarusian observers and CIS observers, whereas in the latter case he said the staff at the polling stations reacted to all voiced critical comments “positively” and promptly corrected any detected inconsistencies.

Meanwhile, the European Union is considering sanctions against Minsk.

Denying any role in Belarus ahead of the presidential election, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had said that Russia did not send people to Belarus to destabilize the situation there.

“Belarus and Russia are the Union State. It is an ally, the closest partner. Therefore, this is surely out of the question,” Peskov has told.

He said that Moscow is aware of 33 Russian citizens being detained in Belarus and 200 others are still wanted.

“There is no information about any illegal actions of them that could become a reason for the detention,” he said, adding he looks forward to clarification of the incident.

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China furious over US Health and Human Services Secretary Taiwan’s visit

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China Xi Jinping

The tensions between US and China has been potentially at the peak and relations are being worsened with every passing day.

The latest visit by US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in Taiwan on Sunday, the first highest-level visit by a US cabinet official since 1979 has sparked outrage in China.

The controversial visit to Taiwan about the island’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Azar extended words of “strong support and friendship” from President Donald Trump to Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen. The health secretary appreciated Taiwan’s successful fight against COVID-19, calling it “a tribute to the open, transparent, democratic nature” of its society and culture.

AS China has been saying that Taipei have no separate international relations from Beijing, viewing the island as a part of China. Beijing does not recognize Taiwanese independence, therefore more reactions are expected from China.

“Thank you, President Tsai, for welcoming me to Taiwan today. It is a true honor to be here to convey a message of strong support and friendship from the United States to #Taiwan,” he wrote on Twitter.
During the meeting, Azar congratulated Tsai on beginning her second term earlier this year.
“Under President Trump, the United States has expressed our admiration for Taiwan’s democratic success in tangible ways,” he noted, as broadcast by the Taiwanese administration.

China and US have embroiled in a brittle battle over coronavirus, trade, stealing of intellectual rights, and engaging in tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats and staging bigger and bigger war games in the western Pacific. President Donald Trump signed executive orders prohibiting US residents from doing any business with TikTok, WeChat or the apps’ Chinese owners.China’s state-run media branded US demands for the sale of TikTok’s American operations to Microsoft Corp. as “theft” and suggested Beijing may block the transaction.

China imposed sanctions on the US in response to the restrictions imposed by Washington over an alleged effort to undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy, the spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Zhao Lijian, said Monday. US moves has so far invited sanctions targeting senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, among others.

On Friday, the United States has imposed sanctions on 11 individuals in response to an alleged effort to “undermine” Hong Kong’s autonomy.

There are also talks of U.S. regulators are considering that stock exchanges should set new rules that could delist the Chinese companies citing that investors are exposed to frauds.

Arti Bali

Sr Journalist

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Every citizen must fight the Covid war: Experts

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COVID-19 pandemic

Bengaluru, Aug 9 : With the government easing more restrictions under Unlock3.0 to further revive the economy since August 1, the war against the Coronavirus pandemic has to be fought by each and every citizen across the country, according to health experts, including epidemiologists.

“As the war against the elusive virus is going to be long and hard, the government alone cannot fight it, and the onus is on each and every citizen to join the battle even after a vaccine is found to treat it,” Karnataka health task force chairman M.K Sudarshan told IANS here.

By enforcing the lockdown since March 25 and extending it up to May 31 with stringent measures, ostensibly, to contain the virus spread, the government managed to control the situation initially and ensured that the country’s woeful healthcare infrastructure was not overwhelmed by lakhs of positive cases.

“The government, its agencies and healthcare warriors have been doing their best over the last 4 months, risking their lives to contain the pandemic, as is evident from the case data during the lockdown and after it was gradually lifted to revive socio-economic activities and restore livelihood.

“The onus to carry on the fight is more on all citizens by wearing masks, sanitising their hands and maintaining social distancing,” asserted Sudarshan, former head of the community medicine department in the state-run KIMS (Kempegowda Institute of Medical Sciences) hospital in the city centre.

The Karnataka government had set up the 6-member committee in mid-April to analyse the Covid-19 data from the southern state and across the country to study the epidemiology of the virus cases, how different patients got infected, what measures for breaking the chain and suggest changes, if required.

Though testing of swab samples to find who got the virus was less and results took longer time due to shortage of diagnostic labs, the stringent lockdown forced most of the people across the country to stay home, wash hands frequently and maintain social distancing at any cost.

“When lockdown was lifted and unlock 1.0 began on June 1, like a genie coming out of a bottle, thousands of citizens stepped out of houses, violated the norms and exposed themselves to the infection. With people travelling again in cities and states in their vehicles, buses, cabs and autos, select trains and flights, the number of citizens who tested positive soared by the day, as they too contracted the virus for violating the norms such as failing to isolate, quarantine and get treated if they were asymptomatic or get admitted in any designated hospital if they were symptomatic,” noted epidemiologist Giridhar Babu.

For instance, till the lockdown was in force up to May 31, the southern state with 7 crore population had just 3,221 positive cases and Bengaluru only 358 cases out of 1.2 crore (120 lakh) people. By June 30, the numbers shot up to 15,242 for state and 4,555 for the city.

“Within a fortnight by July 14, the cases shot up to 44,077 and 20,969, to a whopping 71,069 and 34,943 by July 19 or 5 days during unlock 2.0 and to a massive 1,64,924 and it is now 69,572 as on August 6 in Unlock 3.0,” Babu recalled.

Babu is also a member of the task force and faculty of the New Delhi-based Public Health Foundation of India.

With hundreds of people returning from most-infected neighouring states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in cars, buses, trains or flights, the number of Covid cases zoomed in the state, especially in this tech hub by the day as they carried the virus like super spreaders and became a source of local transmission.

“Though a 9-day lockdown was again re-imposed from July 14 to July 22 in this tech city, 4 Sundays in July and night curfew was maintained till July 31, there was no let-up in the cases as they continue to climb, while recoveries also have been going up steadily,” reiterated Babu.

Admitting that lockdowns, shutdowns and night curfew do not reduce the cases but only delay them, noted pediatric cardiologist Vijayalakshmi I. Balekundri told IANS that the only way to be safe from the dreadful pandemic was to do “SMS” (sanitization of hands, mask-wearing and social distancing) as corona virus was a communicable disease and fatal as it attacks the respiratory system (lungs) and affects all other vital organs of the body.

“The onus of winning the war against the pandemic is more on 130-crore+ citizens than anyone else across the country. God helps those who help themselves is an old adage, as each has to take care of himself or herself from being infected by the virus till a vaccine is found, because it is preventable but not curable,” Balekundri said.

The Bengaluru Medical College and Research Institute Emeritus Professor said though all five fingers are not same or equal, they become a force as a fist when together and converge themselves into a weapon.

“Similarly, the thumb is for mask, index finger for washing hands, middle finger for social distancing, ring finger for maintaining toilet hygiene and little finger to avoid travelling to the extent possible or unless warranted,” Balekundri added.

By Fakir Balaji

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