Daily Current Affairs - 07th Jun 2017

37% drop in H1B visas for 7 Indian firms in 2016

  • Top seven India-based IT companies in the US collectively experienced a whopping 37 per cent drop in approved H-1B visa petitions in 2016 as compared to the previous year, according to a new report that comes amid the Trump administration's crackdown on the "visa abuse".
  • The companies experienced a drop of 5,436 approved petitions (37 per cent) in 2016 as compared to the previous year, said a report by the National Foundation for American Policy – a Washington-based non-profit think-tank.
  • The report comes after US President Donald Trump signed an executive order in April for tightening the rules of the H-1B visa programme to stop "visa abuses". Trump said his administration is going to enforce 'Hire American' rules that are designed to protect jobs and wages of workers in the US.

Apple’s ‘HomePod’ speaker to take on Amazon, Google

  • Apple will later this year release a ‘HomePod’ music-centric smart home speaker, challenging a market currently dominated by Amazon and Google in its latest move to weave deeper into people’s lives.
  • HomePod, aided by Apple’s Siri digital assistant, will be priced at $349 when it begins shipping in December in the United States, Australia and Britain, the tech giant announced at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference.
  • It is designed to work with the Apple Music subscription service and can produce rich sound while tapping into the artificial intelligence power of Siri.

Centre notifies rules on capital gains tax

  • The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has come out with a final notification specifying the securities transactions that would attract capital gains tax where the securities transaction tax (STT) hasn’t been paid.
  • An amendment has been made in the Finance Act 2017 to curb the declaration of unaccounted income as exempt long-term capital gains under the previous provisions of the Income Tax Act by entering into fake transactions. The amendment notification specifies the transactions on which the tax would apply and and those on which tax would be exempt.
  • According to tax experts, a crucial aspect included in the final notification is the exemption granted to taxpayers who have received shares in the course of employment (ESOPs).

Child-friendly HIV drug gets govt. nod

  • The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has registered the child-friendly HIV drug in oral pellet form, ending months of uncertainty for the HIV community. This has opened up crucial supplies from Cipla Pharmaceuticals, a market leader in the HIV segment, to the National AIDS Control Programme (NACO), which had been struggling to source quality assured paediatric formulations of the drug.
  • The pellets, which come in capsules and are dosed by weight, can be sprinkled (but not stirred or crushed) over a small amount of soft food. For infants — who must be able to swallow them — the pellets can be added to a spoonful of breast milk or put on the infant’s tongue.

Davis Cup singles to be shortened to three sets

  • Davis Cup matches will be played on a best-of-three set basis instead of the traditional five, organisers announced as a number of changes were made to the 117-year-old event.
  • The team tournament has struggled to get the sport’s top players to commit to it on a regular basis in an already crammed tennis schedule.
  • In a series of reforms, it was announced that all singles matches will be played as best-of-three sets.The ‘dead rubber’ policy will also be amended to reduce the number of meaningless rubbers.
  • The Davis Cup and Fed Cup are two of the most iconic team competitions in tennis.

El Nino is weaker than anticipated, says IMD

  • The India Meteorological Department’s optimism about more rainfall is largely premised on hopes that a strong El Nino, which, as per its earlier forecast, was expected to surface in the later half of the monsoon, would now be much weaker than anticipated.
  • In April, the IMD had said there was a 38% chance of near normal rains (96% of the LPA). Now the models showed a 50% chance.
  • In April, the IMD shifted to using a new monsoon forecast system, called a dynamical model that works by supercomputers simulating the weather and extrapolating it.

England storms into semifinals

  • Mark Wood took the key wicket of Kane Williamson as England booked its place in the semifinals of
  • the Champions Trophy with an 87-run win over New Zealand at Cardiff on Tuesday.
  • New Zealand, set 311 for victory, was bowled out with 39 balls remaining.

Flights to Doha longer as Indian carriers skip UAE; take Pak, Iran routes

  • Fliers from India will now spend an additional half hour on their flights to Doha, with the worsening crisis in the Persian Gulf prompting carriers to skip airspace over the UAE.
  • Air India Express, IndiGo and Jet Airways operate flights between Indian cities and Doha. Flights out of Delhi fly over Pakistan and Iran to reach the Qatari capital. Those from Mumbai and Kerala used to fly over Oman and the UAE. These will now also fly over Pakistan and Iran.
  • Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism. They also suspended air, sea and land transport.
  • Qatar capital : Doha
  • currency: Qatari riyal

India among top five consumer markets in Asia: BMI Research

  • India is among the top five consumer markets in Asia offering retailers consumer spending growth of an average of 6.1 per cent over the next five years, says a report.
  • According to BMI Research, a Fitch group company, China, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, India and Indonesia represent five favourite consumer markets in Asia, offering retailers the strongest consumer spending growth over its forecast period to 2021.
  • Some of the key factors responsible for increase in consumer spending include, increasing access to consumer credit, lower inflation, and a more favourable regulatory environment for foreign-owned retailers bodes well for India's consumer sectors over the coming years.

India Grid trust falls 1.55% on debut

  • India Grid Trust’s shares fell 1.55% from the issue price in its trading debut after raising Rs. 2,250 crore in an initial public offering.
  • The IPO was subscribed 1.35 times. Its shares closed at Rs. 98.45 on the BSE, below the issue price of Rs. 100. IRB InvIT, which got subscribed 8.6 times, is also trading below its issue price.
  • India Grid Trust, promoted by power transmission asset operator Sterlite Power Grid Ventures, is the second infrastructure investment fund to list on the bourses after IRB InvIT.

India to provide $318 million line of credit to Sri Lanka

  • India has signed an agreement to provide fresh assistance of 318 million US Dollar credit line to Sri Lanka for the development of the railway sector in the country.
  • The agreement was signed in Colombo. India has already provided four Lines of Credit for the development of railway sector in Sri Lanka through its EXIM bank amounting to approximately USD 966 million.
  • These credit facilities have been utilized to improve the Southern and Northern railway lines and for the procurement of rolling stocks for the Sri Lanka Railways.

Japan's NEC to invest $10 million in 3 years

  • Japanese technology giant NEC, which announced a new Centre of Excellence in India, said it will be investing $10 million over the next three years in the country, while targeting revenues of $100 million during the same period.
  • The Centre of Excellence in Noida will work on building Big Data and analytics solutions for clients across sectors such as banking and financial services (BFS), telecom, retail and the Government. The company said Centre of Excellence will not only focus on the India market, but also cater to Japan, Singapore, Philippines and Hong Kong.

Private banks' rate cuts slower: RBI data

  • While the median benchmark lending rate of commercial banks have fallen 90 basis points (bps) to 8.55% since April last year, the median rate of private banks has fallen by 70 bps from 9.8% to 9.1%, latest data released by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) showed.
  • The median rate for the one year marginal cost of fund based lending rate (MCLR) of public sector banks, that accounts for 70% of the market, fell by 90 bps from 9.50% to 8.60% between April 2016 and May 2017, according to the data.
  • Foreign banks’ median rate was the lowest in May 2017, at 8.55%, and came down from 9.45% in April 2016. State Bank of India, the country’s largest lender, reduced its one-year MCLR by 120 bps to 8%, while ICICI Bank, the country’s largest private sector lender, lowered it by 100 bps to 8.20% in the last one year.
  • The MCLR regime came into effect on April 1, 2016, replacing the earlier base rate regime.

Sher Bahadur Deuba elected Nepal PM

  • Sher Bahadur Deuba, a veteran politician known for his close ties with India, was overwhelmingly elected the Prime Minister of Nepal for the fourth time, taking over the reigns of the country at a time the Himalayan nation is navigating through a political turmoil.
  • He will be 40th prime minister of Nepal. Election for new prime minister was held due to resignation by the CPN (Maoist Centre) Chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal from the post of prime minister. Dahal had resigned on May 24 as per the power sharing understanding with the coalition partner Nepali Congress.
  • Nepal Capital : Khatmandu
  • President: Bhidya Devi Bhandari

‘Hottest’ planet in universe discovered

  • Scientists have discovered the hottest known planet located 650 light years from Earth, which is warmer than most stars in the universe and sports a giant, glowing gas tail like a comet.
  • The Jupiter-like planet orbits a massive star KELT-9 every day and a half, researchers said.
  • With a day-side temperature peaking at 4,326 degree Celsius, the newly discovered exoplanet, designated KELT-9b, is hotter than most stars and only 926 degree Celsius cooler than our Sun.
  • The ultraviolet radiation from the star it orbits is so brutal that the planet may be evaporating away under the intense glare, producing a glowing gas tail.
  • The gas giant 2.8 times more massive than Jupiter but only half as dense, because the extreme radiation from its host star has caused its atmosphere to puff up like a balloon.