Summer of discontent

Also in today’s edition: Hello darkness, my foe; Gaza under siege; ‘Tis election season; Bloodsuckers are having a ball

Good morning! What does it take to produce Nobel laureates in literature? Making the Anglophones read translated works. At least that’s what Jacques Testard, founder of Fitzcarraldo Editions, thinks. The indie publishing house boasts four Nobel-winning writers on its roster, including this year’s winner, Jon Fosse. The Telegraph reports that Fitzcarraldo Editions has found traction among young readers through its translated works. Colour coding books (blue for fiction and white for non-fiction) and minimal designs have helped forge its brand identity. Eh, who says Nobel-ity has to be grand?

Dinesh Narayanan and Adarsh Singh also contributed to today’s edition.

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The Market Signal

Stocks & Economy: Comments from the US Federal Reserve officials that hinted chances of more rate hikes had reduced were enough to bring back cheer to the markets. Fed vice chair Philip Jefferson said that the markets were “doing all the dirty work for the Fed”. The comments were enough for Asian shares to brush aside the Israel-Hamas war to surge in morning trade.

Oil prices took a breather after rising sharply on Monday. Analysts worry that if Iran gets directly involved in the conflict, it could block the arterial Strait of Hormuz.

Indian equities took a beating on Monday on fears of the war escalating. Adani Ports, owner of Israel’s Haifa port, lost 5% of its value. Shares of 13 other Indian companies, which have business linkages with Israel, suffered too. Opening moves of the GIFT Nifty index showed a flat or slightly positive beginning to trading today.


Shot In The Dark

If you’ve shopped online or tried to delete a social media account, you’ve likely been subject to deceptive practices. The kind where companies make subscription cancellation a cumbersome process, add hidden costs in the last stage of checkout, or create artificial scarcity and urgency to make you purchase a product or service. India wants to do something about these “dark patterns”. Which is why the Department of Consumer Affairs released draft guidelines (pdf) and invited comments until October 5. Already, Big Tech isn’t happy.

Why?: Industry body Asia Internet Coalition, representing Amazon, Meta, Google, etc., argues that a separate proposal on dark patterns will lead to uncertain compliance requirements due to an overlap with the Consumer Protection Act, the Digital Personal Data Protection Act, and an in-the-works Digital India Act.

Btw: Lawmakers and regulators in the EU, UK, and US are also looking to clamp down on dark patterns.


Terror Reigns

Israel’s war in Gaza is already rippling in global political conversations at the highest levels and is likely to cause more fissures. US Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, who is visiting China, criticised Beijing’s support to Palestine and urged President Xi Jinping to stand by Israel.

Meanwhile, Israel believes that Iran was involved deeply in the attack. But the US is not so sure about it. The US also rejected the charge that Iran used the recently freed $6 billion to fund the attack.

Back in control: Israel said it had retaken control of towns where intruders from Gaza were running riot. It has now vowed to wreak vengeance, choking power, fuel, and food supplies to the Strip of two million inhabitants. Germany and Austria have suspended aid to Palestine.

Stranded: About 18,000 Indians, including students, tourists and businessmen, are stuck in Israel.


Nothing To Write Home About

Photo credit: @towfiqu999999/Unsplash

The earnings season is here, but don’t get too excited: India’s consumer economy isn’t in top gear. FMCG companies expect insipid numbers for the September 2023 quarter. Godrej Consumer said the recovery in demand is gradual, hurt by poor rainfall and rising food prices. Analysts tracking rival Dabur said they expect volume growth—the amount of goods sold—to be 1% at best. IT firms won’t fare much better, although pharma, banking, and auto firms should report better numbers.

Good, bad, and ugly: The infamous ‘K-shaped’ recovery persists. Key indicators show that richer groups have held onto their wealth while poorer, rural consumers are still suffering. Take car sales, for instance. After months of anaemic growth, auto sales in September were up 20%. But tractor sales dropped by over 9%, indicating farm distress.

Pocket pincher: The Reserve Bank of India kept key lending rates unchanged and stuck to its target of reducing inflation to 4%. Despite a drop in core inflation, the central bank said it’s keeping an eye on the more volatile consumer price index.

The Signal

An unholy combination of climate catastrophes, farm failure, and consequent inflation keeps holding India back. It isn’t enough that the rich are getting richer; broad-based economic growth needs the rural economy to come back on track.

The RBI is in a classic policy quandary: should it sacrifice growth to control inflation? For now, it’s more concerned about price rise but as Mint points out, the central bank’s target may be too ambitious for our own good.


ECI Sounds The Bugle

The festive season, which is the last quarter of the year, is generally a good time for the Indian economy. It is when consumption gets a boost, with people opening up their wallets to buy new stuff. This year, there will be an additional bump.

Festival of democracy: The Election Commission of India (ECI) has announced it will hold polls in five states—Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and Telangana—between November 7 and November 30. Votes will be counted on December 3.

Elections are a costly affair. The 2019 general elections were estimated to have cost over ₹50,000 crore (~$7 billion). A bulk of that is from the contesting parties’ campaign expenditure, including advertisements, social media, and, often, illegal cash distribution.

Elections in these five states are seen as a sort of semi-final before the big national dust-up five months later, and also have a bearing on equity markets.


Wanted: Buzzkills

The National Capital Region (NCR) is hosting more numbers of the world’s deadliest animal this season. Mosquito breeding surged in July. Dengue cases are rising. Blame the declining count of odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) due to erratic weather—a rain surplus in the first half of the monsoon and rain deficiency in the second half.

Why should I care?: Do you enjoy being bitten by mosquitoes? If not, know that odonates are the bloodsuckers’ natural predators. Each insect can consume 30-100 mosquitoes daily.

Elsewhere in NCR, National Security Guard personnel are fighting a marauder on their 1,600-acre campus. That marauder, prosopis juliflora, has depleted 63 of 98 borewells on-site. Invasive plant species have overrun 22% of natural Indian habitats and are a threat to ecosystems and livelihoods.

Tangent: The Reporters' Collective reveals that the coal ministry caved in to industry lobbying to open up coal blocks in India’s densest forests.


Give it back: The Indian government has asked six Indian e-scooter makers, including Hero Electric, to return subsidies worth ₹500 crore ($60 million) for violating localisation rules, per Bloomberg.

Regulation watch: India will have a self-regulatory body for fintech and digital lending in three to six months, reports Moneycontrol.

Shopping on credit: The Hinduja Group is raising $800 million debt from private funds to help acquire Reliance Capital.

Chips are down: Samsung’s third quarter profit is expected to plummet by 80% compared to the same period a year ago due to an ongoing chip glut.

Hype ≠ profit: The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft's AI assistant Github Copilot is losing an average of $20 a month per user and as much as $80 for some users.

Top honour: Harvard professor Claudia Goldin became the third woman to win the Nobel prize in economics “for having advanced our understanding of women’s labour market outcomes”.

Climate crisis: The damage caused by extreme weather globally has cost $16 million an hour for the last 20 years, according to a new study.


₹16,180 crore

Or ~$2 billion. The amount Maharashtra Police says was stolen from 260 bank accounts over a period of time in a cyber attack on a payment gateway. (The Economic Times)


Fun bar-red: Uttarakhand's updated excise policy now requires a licence for home minibars. This means you can't simply purchase and store liquor at home without a licence. The policy also mandates the closure of minibars on designated dry days. Additionally, it's crucial to ensure that no one under the age of 21 accesses the minibar. Way to go Uttarakhand, you made Sir Humphrey proud today.

The Gilded Age: Millennials, rejoice. Your best days are still ahead of you. As per an analysis by The Economist, Nobel laureates reach their zenith in their late 30s to early 40s. The intersection of contentment during middle age and heightened creativity serves as a driving force behind this remarkable trend. And here you were, thinking your 40s are earmarked for a midlife crisis.

Clash of civilisations: Japan and the US, two countries united by history and a mutual love for baseball, are facing a nutty problem. The two are trying to promote each other’s snacks in baseball stadiums. The US has shelled peanuts and French fries to offer. But the Japanese, freakish about cleanliness, are not so keen about the mess those leave behind. On the other hand, Japan is promoting its Hi-Chew fruit candy. It’s like gum that can be swallowed. Which one will come out on top? Guess we’ll find out.

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