Archive for June, 2012
Home to some of the world’s exotic destinations, the United States on Friday made an attempt to woo maximum number of tourists from India by flaunting its new initiatives like Interview Waiver Programme under which an applicant can get visa without having to appear in person.
As India is expected to cross 1 million visitor mark by 2015 and leap into the league of top 10 countries that bring tourists to that country, US promoted its favourite cities like New York, San Francisco, Chicago and California to potential tourists and tour operators at a seminar here.
Inaugurating the one-day seminar, US Ambassador to India Nancy J Powell said over 6.5 lakh people from India visited the US in 2011 and attributed the increase to strengthening of relationship between the two countries.
“Travel and tourism to the US is an important way for us to expand our cultural and commercial ties and increase trade growth between our countries. Total spending by Indians travelling to the US was USD 4.6 billion last year, up 15% from the year before,” she said.
The Ambassador noted that the “most important” aspect of travel and tourism between the two countries is not dollar figures, but the “person-to-person relationships” that are cultivated.
On the recent programme that allows certain applicants to apply for visas being interviewed in person, Embassy officials said the programme has already been implemented. The programme also found mention in the Joint Statement issued after the third US-India Strategic Dialogue in Washington earlier this month.
The officials said the applicant can make use of the programme if he applies for same category of visa, if previous visa was issued at the same post, if he has not been refused for same visa category and if his visa is still valid or has expired within the last four years.
Powell said the new programme will make it easier for Indian citizens to come to the US for various purposes. The Ambassador also said the Obama Administration will continue to find more ways to make travel from India to the US as simple as possible.
Embassy officials said more than 660,000 Indians visited the US last year and it was a record year for tourists from India. They also said 97% of the visas are processed within 24 hours and waiting time for visa appointments are currently 10 days or less across India.
Goldprices rose on Friday along with the euro after leaders at a European Union summit struck a deal to cut borrowing costs for Spain and Italy, but stayed on track for their biggest quarterly drop in eight years after a dire performance in May and June.
The metal has fallen 5.87 percent since the end of March, its worst quarter since the three months to June 2004, as the dollar benefited from safe-haven flows and hopes faded that the Federal Reserve would launch another round of U.S. quantitative easing.
After a widely celebrated eleven-year bull run, which took gold prices to a record $1,920.30 an ounce last September, it is now little better than flat on the year and has averaged just over $1,650 an ounce in the first half.
“After 11 years it is only natural that gold stops and pauses for breath before taking the next step higher,” Saxo Bank vice president Ole Hansen said. “The worry is obviously that momentum has been completely lost and leveraged players (such a hedge funds) have left the building.”
“They will come back, but the market needs to reassert itself before that happens, as they are more followers than instigators of trends.”
“The event that could trigger the spark that put some life back into gold is however difficult to find at the moment, so before we move higher, there is a risk that we need to clear the table which could be triggered by a move below $1,500.”
Spot gold was up 1.3 percent at $1,570.20 an ounce at 1003 GMT, while U.S. gold futures for August delivery were up $20.20 an ounce at $1,570.60.
Financial markets have rebounded strongly from Thursday’s losses. The Euro STOXX 50 volatility index, Europe’s main gauge of anxiety, sank 10 percent to a one-week low of 25.25 as investors’ appetite for risky assets recovered following a deal at the EU summit.
Euro zone leaders agreed to take emergency action to bring down Italy’s and Spain’s spiralling borrowing costs and to create a single supervisory body for euro zone banks by the end of this year, a first step towards a European banking union.
India’s infrastructure sector output grew 4.6 percent in May from a year earlier, faster than an upwardly revised annual growth of 3.9 percent in the previous month, government data showed on Friday.
The output grew 4.2 percent between April and May compared with 5.0 percent in the same period a year ago.
The infrastructure sector accounts for 37.9 percent of India’s industrial output.
Royal Bank of Scotland could face a hefty fine from the same interest rate rigging scandal that has hammered Barclays this week and left its boss Bob Diamond fighting for his job.
Taxpayer-backed RBS is set to be fined about 150 million pounds for participating in market manipulation offences similar to those engaged in by Barclays, the Times newspaper said.
RBS said it, like many others, is continuing to co-operate with regulators on the ongoing investigation. Any resolution of its case is months away, a person familiar with the matter said.
Britain’s banking woes deepened on Friday as the Financial Services Authority said it had settled with four banks — Barclays, RBS, HSBC and Lloyds — after finding evidence they mis-sold products to protect small businesses against a rise in interest rates.
Compensation could run into the hundreds of millions of pounds, lawyers have said, although Lloyds said the cost for it would not be material.
The FSA said from 2001 to date, banks sold around 28,000 interest rate protection products to customers, although it did not did not say how much it would cost the banks.
A string of mis-selling cases has rocked the financial services industry for over two decades and banks are already likely to pay upwards of 9 billion pounds in compensation for mis-selling loan insurance.
The Libor mis-selling scandal is expected to draw in many banks globally, but Diamond has found himself first in the firing line after US and British authorities fined Barclays USD 450 million on Wednesday for manipulating the London interbank offer rate (Libor).
Prime Minister David Cameron said Diamond – who was running the investment banking arm Barclays Capital when the rigging occurred in 2005-2009 – and other bosses had some “big questions to answer”. Britain also called in the fraud squad to investigate possible crimes.
“Politicians have already been baying for blood and calling for the head of Bob Diamond, especially as he was in charge at BarCap at the time,” said Stephen Peak, manager of the Henderson UK Alpha and European Absolute Return funds and a shareholder in the bank.
“We feel that the Barclays board will instinctively wish to resist this, as Diamond is clearly the architect and leading light of Barclays, but feel that the pressure may be too great.”
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Updated : 03.12pm / 29th June
Within 24 hours of Finance Ministry issuing the draft guidelines on controversial General Anti-Avoidance Tax Rules (GAAR), the PMO appears to have distanced itself from the proposal saying that were not seen by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and would be finalised only after his approval.
“These (draft guidelines) have not been seen by the Prime Minister and will be finalised with the approval of the Prime Minister, who holds the Finance portfolio, only after considering the feedback received”, Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said in a release.
The Finance Ministry last evening had issued draft guidelines on GAAR – a budgetary proposal to check tax evasion – to seek feed back of the stake holders.
The draft guidelines seek to address the concerns of the investors over misuse of the tax proposal. Besides other things, it said that there would be a threshold limit for invocation of GAAR and it would apply on income accruing after April 1, 2013.
In view of the widespread protest against the proposal, former Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee postponed its implementation by a year to April 2013.
Morgan Stanley upgrades Indian stocks to “equalweight” after being “underweight” since the first quarter of 2011, saying India is now trading at a price to book multiple of 2.1x, close to the trough valuations of 2.0x in the 2002 and 2008 cycles.
“This is an indicator of the extent to which the India market is already pricing in the adverse global environment and the current domestic situation of high inflation and slower trend GDP growth,” it said.
Morgan Stanley adds Indian stocks tend to perform well versus MSCI emerging market indexes after a period of oil price declines.
Morgan Stanley upgrade comes after Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan upgraded Indian stocks to “overweight” from “neutral”.