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BQuick On Dec. 18: Top 10 Stories In Under 10 Minutes

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This is a roundup of the day’s top stories in brief.

1. Oil Slumps To One Year-Low

Oil sank to another one-year low in New York as a sell-off in equities worsened crude market sentiments already soured by signs of plentiful American supplies.

  • WTI futures in New York slipped as much as 4.1 percent after closing below $50 on Monday for the first time since October 2017. Brent was trading at around $58 a barrel.
  • The U.S. government expects shale-oil production to surge, potentially swelling already-abundant inventories.
  • Equities across Europe and Asia slid after a speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping offered no new reforms to stimulate the world’s second-biggest economy.

Crude’s mired in a bear market amid growing skepticism about OPEC's output cut.

For more on why markets were disappointed with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speech read this.

2. Rupee Strengthens, Indian Markets Rise For Sixth Consecutive Session

The rupee on Tuesday rallied 111 paise, its best single-day gain in over five years. It settled below 70.45 against the U.S. dollar as softening crude oil prices eased concerns over India's current account deficit expansion.

Indian equity benchmarks rose for sixth session in a row led by ICICI Bank, Reliance Industries and Larsen & Toubro.

  • The S&P BSE Sensex rose 0.21 percent or 77 points to 36,347
  • The NSE Nifty 50 Index climbed 0.19 percent or 20 points to 10,909.
  • Fifteen of 19 sector gauges compiled by BSE ended higher led by the S&P BSE Power Index's 1.1 percent gain.
  • On the flipside, S&P BSE Information Technology Index was top loser, down 1.1 percent.

Also Read: NSE Gets SEBI’s Nod To Launch Weekly Options On Nifty 50

3. Waiver Mania

Congress President Rahul Gandhi said in Parliament today that he will not let Prime Minister Narendra Modi sleep until all farms loans have been waived.

In a stinging attack on what he described as crony capitalism, Gandhi said the government has turned a blind eye to the loans given to 15 top industrialists of the country but has made no effort to alleviate the woes of the farmers in the last four years.

This week the three states won by Congress in recent elections - Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh have all announced farm loan waivers.

Today the Assam government approved a Rs 600 crore-worth farm loan waiver for the benefit of nearly eight lakh farmers of the state, reported news agency PTI.

The government, according to the move, will write off 25 percent loan of farmers up to a maximum of Rs 25,000 of all farm debt, Assam Government spokesperson and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said.

Meanwhile Gujarat state has decided to waive pending electricity bills of those consumers who were facing disconnection due to irregularities, accusation of theft or long pending outstandings. The waiver will cover 6,22,000 consumers and cost the state Rs 625 crore.

Also Read: Working To Bring 99% Things In Sub-18% GST Slab, Says PM Modi 

4. Centre Didn’t Ask Urjit Patel To Resign

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said the government never sought the resignation of Urjit Patel as governor of the Reserve Bank of India over differences in handling liquidity stress in certain sectors.

  • Responding to criticism over the surprise resignation of Patel as RBI Governor earlier this month, he said there were cordial discussions at the meeting of the RBI board over issues such as the appropriate size of reserves the central bank must hold.

"The government never asked for his resignation." - Arun Jaitley, Finance Minister Of India

Jaitley also said the government does not need a single penny from RBI's reserves.

5. Carlyle’s U-Turn On PNB Housing

Carlyle Group LP is seeking to double its holding in Indian mortgage lender PNB Housing Finance Ltd., people familiar with the matter said, reversing an earlier attempt to pare its stake in the company.

  • The U.S. private-equity firm is considering buying Punjab National Bank’s shares in PNB Housing, which would give it a controlling stake, the people said, asking not to be named as the information is not public.
  • Carlyle and Punjab National Bank had earlier invited bids for their holdings in the mortgage financier, though the latter said in November that it would continue with the sale process independently.
  • Punjab National Bank’s 32.8 percent stake was valued at about 53 billion rupees ($745 million) as of close of trade on Monday.

Carlyle is considering expanding its stake after valuations for the housing finance company turned attractive.

6. What’s Going On At Dairy Products Company Kwality?

In just one quarter, Kwality Ltd.’s revenue fell by three-fourths, it reported a loss that’s three times its sales, defaulted on debt and tax payments, had proceedings to attach accounts initiated against it and was dragged to the insolvency court. Not just that. It also faced a forensic audit and its Chief Financial Officer and auditor resigned.

The company reported a loss of Rs 951 crore in the quarter ended September, according to its exchange filing. That compares with a profit of Rs 21 crore a year earlier and Rs 1 crore in the previous quarter. Revenue plunged 79 percent year-on-year to Rs 351 crore.

Investor concerns over its weakening financials have wiped off 93 percent of its market value so far this year.

Here’s what went wrong at the dairy products maker.

7. Gold For A Buck

Indians are buying gold for as little as one rupee as retailers offer online sales in bite-sized portions to prop up shrinking demand in the world’s second-biggest consumer.

  • Demand for gold is falling, partly as a result of government measures, higher local prices and the metal’s fading appeal among more youthful customers.
  • That’s forcing jewelers to adapt online purchases to appeal to a more internet-savvy, younger population.
  • Buyers only get physical delivery of the metal once they have paid enough for one gram of gold, currently about Rs 3,200.
  • The low barrier of entry, compared with a minimum purchase of 1 gram in the traditional market, and faster transactions, which can be done on a phone in about 40 seconds, are the biggest lures for the product.

"A lot of people have been buying at one rupee." - Gaurav Mathur, Managing Director, SafeGold

Since its launch last year, about 3 million people have already transacted on digital platform SafeGold and the company, which counts the World Gold Council as one of its investors, is targeting to raise this to 15 million by next year, Mathur said.

Here's how Indians' consumption of gold is changing.

8. Is Modi’s Election Campaigning Losing Its Sheen

The Bharatiya Janata Party lost more than 70 percent of assembly constituencies where Prime Minister Narendra Modi campaigned during recent five-state assembly elections--Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram--according to an IndiaSpend analysis of electoral data.

  • Modi spoke and campaigned at 30 places across 80 constituencies, of which the BJP won 23 and lost 57.
  • In MP and Rajasthan, where the PM held more than 70 percent (22 rallies) of his rallies, the BJP managed to win 22 out of 54 seats (41 percent).
  • In Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram, the BJP won just one of 26 constituencies, across which Modi held eight rallies.

Is Yogi Adityanath a better campaigner than Modi?

9. We’ll Fix The Gender Pay Gap — In 202 Years

The good news: The global gender gap has improved, slightly. The reality: Differences in economic opportunity, including pay between men and women, are so vast it’ll take 202 years to fully bridge them, according to the World Economic Forum.

  • The group looks at several measures of equality between men and women in this year’s Global Gender Gap Report, released Tuesday.
  • Overall gender disparity across politics, work, health and education improved by less than 0.1 percent, meaning it’ll take 108 years to reach parity.
  • The economic opportunity gap -- based on participation, pay and advancement in the workforce -- remains the area that’ll take the longest time to close.
  • The figures are a tiny improvement from last year’s results, where the gap between the achievements and well-being of men and women widened for the first time in more than a decade.

Iceland was the best performer on the list for the 10th year running.

10. India Inc., Does Your Audit Committee Have A Spine?

The Satyam fraud should have jolted corporate governance practices but all we got was a mild jerk, at best, writes IIM Bangalore’s R Narayanaswamy.

  • Even a major fraud has not been able to reduce the prevalence of incompetent or ill-equipped or spineless audit committees.
  • At least four critical functions of the audit committee are either ignored or deserve more importance.
  • The audit committee is often regarded as a frill by both management and board. That is a costly a mistake.

Read the full column - The audit committee often becomes the management’s hatchet man.

Also Read: Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh On Changing India

. Read more on Business News by BloombergQuint.