The benchmark stock indices have opened the day on a flat note with rising economic uncertainty as virus cases mount.The government’s hopes of a V-shaped economic recovery could be dashed as the services sector continues to face troubles in August.Join us as we follow the top business news through the day.11:30 AMUnacademy gets $150 million in SoftBank-led roundEducation technology firm Unacademy has raised $150 million in a round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2i, valuing the company at $1.45 billion.Existing investors General Atlantic, Sequoia Capital, Nexus Venture Partners, Facebook, and Blume Ventures also participated in the round, it added.All documents related to the investment had been signed and the final closing was expected in the next few weeks, it said.“We’re delighted to welcome SoftBank as a partner. We started with test preparation and with this partnership, we will launch other [offerings] on our platform,” said Gaurav Munjal, co-founder and CEO, Unacademy.
11:00 AMThe rise of zombie firms
10:40 AMIndia’s services activity shrinks for sixth month in Aug, job losses mountA serious setback to the government’s hopes of a V-shaped economic recovery.Reuters reports: “Activity in India’s crippled services industry fell for a sixth straight month in August as coronavirus restrictions continued to hurt business operations and demand, causing the longest streak of job losses on record, an industry survey showed.Thursday’s survey adds to the gloom in the service sector, an engine of economic growth and jobs, suggesting a long and painful road to recovery after the economy shrank nearly a quarter in April-June.Although the Nikkei/IHS Markit Services Purchasing Managers’ Index increased to 41.8 in August from July’s 34.2, it remained well below the 50-mark separating growth from contraction.August was the sixth straight month the index was sub-50, the longest such stretch since a 10-month run to April 2014.“August highlights another month of challenging operating conditions in the Indian services sector,” Shreeya Patel, an economist at IHS Markit, said in a release. “Sustained periods of closure and ongoing lockdown restrictions in both domestic and foreign markets have weighed heavily on the health of the industry.”Hoping to avert more serious economic damage, the government has said it planned to reopen underground train networks and allow sports and religious events in a limited manner despite coronavirus cases growing at the fastest rate in the world’s second-most populous country.Amid the raging pandemic, even if restrictions are eased, economic activity is unlikely to quickly return to pre-COVID-19 levels as fear of getting infected will keep millions of people indoors, avoiding shopping malls, cinemas, restaurants and hotels.A Reuters poll showed the Indian economy is likely to suffer its worst 12-month performance since 1979 for the fiscal year that ends March 2021, contracting 6.0%, pushing millions more into poverty.Although improved from July, sub-indexes tracking domestic and foreign demand remained firmly in contraction territory, leading firms to reduce their workforce for the sixth straight month, the longest streak on record.Expectations for future business activity gave little hope for an imminent turnaround as service firms gave a neutral outlook for the next 12 months.A composite index, which measures both services and factory activity, improved to 46.0 in August from July’s 37.2, cushioned by a better manufacturing performance, but remained well below the neutral 50.0 level.On the price front, both input costs and prices charged rose in August, suggesting Asia’s third-largest economy could enter a period of stagflation – a phase with lofty inflation, high unemployment and stagnant demand.”10:20 AMAmazon, Verizon may invest over $4 billion in Vodafone IdeaLooks like things may begin to heat up again in the country’s telecom sector.Reuters reports: “U.S. wireless carrier Verizon Communications Inc and Amazon.com Inc may invest more than $4 billion for a stake in India’s Vodafone Idea Ltd , the Mint newspaper reported on Thursday, sending shares in the struggling Indian telecom firm up 10%.Vodafone Idea’s stake-sale talks had been paused pending the outcome of a court hearing in India, which created uncertainty and could have threatened Vodafone Idea’s survival, Mint reported, citing two unnamed people aware of the negotiations.But Amazon and Verizon are set to resume discussions following a Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday which gave mobile carriers 10 years to settle government dues.Vodafone Idea did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment. Amazon and Verizon did not return emails seeking comment outside regular U.S. business hours.Heavily indebted Vodafone Idea – a joint venture between Britain’s Vodafone Group Plc and India’s Idea Cellular – had previously said its ability to continue as a going concern rested on a positive outcome of the hearing.It has paid the Indian government 78.5 billion rupees ($1.1 billion) in telecoms dues, according to regulatory filings, but still owes roughly 500 billion rupees ($6.8 billion) more.Shares in Vodafone Idea, which ended 13% lower after Tuesday’s court ruling, were up 8% at 10.70 rupees on the NSE index by 0405 GMT.”10:00 AMSensex, Nifty start on cautious note amid tepid global cuesA slow start to the day for stocks.PTI reports: “Domestic equity benchmarks Sensex and Nifty turned cautious in early trade on Thursday amid lack of directional cues from global markets.After opening 150.33 points higher, the BSE Sensex pared most gains to trade 12.69 points or 0.03 per cent higher at 39,098.72; while the NSE Nifty was up 13.80 points or 0.12 per cent at 11,548.80.M&M was the top gainer in the Sensex pack, rising around 2 per cent, followed by Maruti, TCS, L&T, Titan, Bajaj Auto and Sun Pharma.On the other hand, Bajaj Finance, ICICI Bank, IndusInd Bank and PowerGrid were among the laggards.In the previous session, Sensex settled 185.23 points or 0.48 per cent higher at 39,086.03, while Nifty climbed 64.75 points or 0.56 per cent to close at 11,535.Exchange data showed that foreign institutional investors bought equities worth Rs 990.57 crore on a net basis on Wednesday.According to traders, domestic equities turned choppy amid lack of directional cues from global markets.Concerns of India-China border tensions too weighed on investor sentiment, they said.Bourses in Shanghai and Hong Kong were in the red in mid-day deals, while Tokyo and Seoul was trading with gains.Stock exchanges on Wall Street ended significantly higher in overnight session.Global oil benchmark Brent crude was trading 0.09 per cent higher at USD 44.47 per barrel.”
9:30 AMFM to meet heads of banks, NBFCsFinance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will hold a review meeting with heads of banks and NBFCs on Thursday for the smooth and speedy implementation of the one-time debt recast for resolution of COVID-19-related stress in bank loans.The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) last month permitted a one-time restructuring of both corporate and retail loans without getting classified as a non-performing asset (NPA).