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Shot in the Arm for Natural Gas, Exports Under Cloud and Top Stocks in Action
Wed, 18 Apr Pre-Open | Parth Parekh, TM Team

On Tuesday, share markets in India opened on a flat note, remained rangebound and ended the day on a firm footing.

The BSE Sensex closed higher by 90 points to end the day above the 34,300 mark at 33,395. While the broader NSE Nifty ended the day higher by 20 points to end at 10,549.

Among BSE sectoral indices, power stocks. This was followed by realty stocks at 1.2% and FMCG stocks at 1.1%. Jet Airways and Indian Hotels were among the major gainers.

Top Stocks in Action Today

Bajaj Electrical is likely to be in focus today after it bagged orders worth Rs 35.8 billion for rural/urban electrification projects in Uttar Pradesh. The projects are from Madhyanchal Vidyut Vitran Nigam Limited under the Saubhagya Yojna of Government of India.

Gruh Finance is another stock to watch today after the housing finance subsidiary of HDFC reported a robust financial performance in the March 2018 quarter. Additionally, the housing finance entity recommended a bonus issue in the ratio of 1:1 and dividend of Rs 3.30 per share of face value of Rs 2 for the year ended 31 March 2018.

Spotlight on the Natural Gas Economy

To reduce its carbon footprint, the Indian government is targeting to increase the share of natural gas in the primary energy-mix from the present level of 6% to 15% by 2030. Therefore, to ease the gas supply, the thrust has been on raising production of gas as well as import of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG), completion of the national pipeline grid and faster roll-out of the city gas distribution network in the country.

Further, the government is also planning to launch a Gas Trading Hub/Exchange (GTHE) to boost the consumption of natural gas in the country. The GTHE that is expected to come up by October will result in better price discovery through the creation of the Indian gas benchmark. Presently the price of bulk natural gas is fixed by the government based on the price prevalent in gas-surplus nations of Russia, US, China and the cost of importing LNG.

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The oil ministry has also initiated steps to build the regulatory framework to enable the establishment and operation of GTHE.

Apart from being used as an auto fuel in the form Compressed Natural gas (CNG) and cooking fuel as Piped Natural Gas (PNG), natural gas also finds application in a host of user industries such as fertilizers, power, petrochemicals and refineries. Therefore, the creation of the hub will act as central pricing point for the network and usher in transparent pricing thereby boosting the natural gas economy in the country.

India's Export Market in Doldrums

Even as the domestic economy has been struggling to get on track, the country's exports continue to remain lackluster. The introduction of Goods and Service Tax (GST) in July last year has delayed refunds to exporters, adversely impacting trade in FY18.

The country's merchandise exports to GDP ratio slipped to a 15-year low of 11.7%. The share of exports in GDP had last contracted to a low level of 10.5% in FY04.

What's further worrying is that the waning effect of GST alone will not be able to revive the country's export fortunes. The gems and jewellery sector, that accounts for a significant share of the export basket, has been hit hard by the ban on Letter of Credit in the aftermath of the fraud in PNB bank. For the second month in a row, gems and jewellery exports contracted and fell by 16.6% YoY in March 2018.

Even textile and engineering good exports have been struggling due to escalating raw material costs and growing protectionism in developed economies. As a matter of fact, the continuation of strong protectionist policies by the US is likely to adversely impact the entry of duty-free products from India thereby keeping exports under pressure in future.

Therefore, given a weak outlook for the export market, revival in domestic consumption will have to drive the much-anticipated economic recovery in future.

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