Israel cenbank’s Abir says buying corporate bonds to prevent layoffs

Bank of Israel Deputy Governor Andrew Abir poses for a picture in his office in Jerusalem July 8, 2020. (Reuters)
Updated 08 July 2020

Israel cenbank’s Abir says buying corporate bonds to prevent layoffs

JERUSALEM: The Bank of Israel’s decision to start buying corporate bonds should enable companies to issue debt and prevent further layoffs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, deputy governor Andrew Abir said.
On Monday, the bank held its benchmark interest rate at 0.1 percent but said it would buy 15 billion shekels ($4 billion) of higher-rated corporate bonds in the secondary market.
“It’s not that the corporate bond market was not functioning or because spreads have widened dramatically, but rather the understanding that over the next 6-12 months, there’s going to be a need for issuance in that market,” Abir told Reuters.
The central bank began purchases on March 15 of up to 50 billion shekels of government bonds, which has helped reverse a spike in government and corporate yields.
The index of bonds issued by Israel’s 20 largest firms has gained 1.4 percent following the central bank’s announcement, following three weeks of declines.
Noting that more than 40 percent of corporate credit comes from the bond market, Abir said that fear of being frozen out the market could lead to cash hoarding and cost-cutting, including jobs.
“We want to prevent a situation where a company is having question marks in its ability to fund themselves (and) lays off another 1,000 workers.”
Unemployment is already more than 20 percent and could worsen after some COVID-19 restrictions were reimposed.
Abir said risks to the central bank’s scenario of a record six percent economic contraction in 2020 will be “to the downside” if the infection rate stays high.
Analysts are split over whether the central bank will lower its key rate to zero percent or negative. The Bank of Israel has indicated it is reluctant to do so.
“We still have more measures that we can do. QE can be increased. We haven’t run out of our policy options,” Abir said.


India to invest $1.46 trillion to lift virus-hit economy

Updated 15 August 2020

India to invest $1.46 trillion to lift virus-hit economy

  • Modi announced a national digital heath plan under which every Indian will get an identity card containing all health-related information
  • Modi said the government has identified 7,000 infrastructure projects to offset the economic impact of the pandemic
NEW DELHI: India’s prime minister said Saturday his country has done well in containing the coronavirus pandemic and announced $1.46 trillion infrastructure projects to boost the sagging economy.
The key lesson India learnt from the pandemic is to become self-reliant in manufacturing and developing itself as a key supply chain destination for international companies, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.
“The coronavirus epidemic is a big crisis, but it can’t stall India’s economic progress,’’ Modi said in a speech from New Delhi’s 17th century Mughal-era Red Fort to mark 74 years of the country’s independence from British rule. He wore an orange and white turban with a long scarf around his neck.
He also said that three vaccines are in different phases of testing in India and it will start mass production as soon as it got a green light from scientists. “Detailed plans are in place for large-scale production of corona vaccine and making it available to every Indian,” he said.
India’s coronavirus death toll overtook Britain’s this week to become the fourth-highest in the world as the country reported over 2.5 million confirmed cases, just behind the US and Brazil.
Modi also announced a national digital heath plan under which every Indian will get an identity card containing all health-related information.
The celebrations were curtailed on Saturday because of the pandemic, with invitations going only to 4,000 guests instead of normal 20,000, media reports said.
The International Monetary Fund projected a contraction of 4.5 percent for the Indian economy in 2020, a “historic low,” but said the country is expected to bounce back in 2021.
Modi said the government has identified 7,000 infrastructure projects to offset the economic impact of the pandemic.
“Infrastructure will not be created in silos anymore. All infrastructure has to be comprehensive, integrated and linked to each other. Multi-modal connectivity infrastructure is the way forward,” he said.
He said that India saw a record 18 percent jump in foreign direct investment in the past year, a signal that the international companies are looking at the country.
Modi didn’t refer to China directly, but India is trying to capitalize on its rival’s rising production costs and deteriorating ties with the United States and European nations to become a replacement home for large multinationals.
Referring to border tensions with China in the Ladakh area, he said Indian forces had given a befitting response in the mountainous region where thousands of soldiers from the two countries remain in a tense standoff since May. India said 20 of its troops died in hand combat with Chinese troops on June 15.
“Whether it’s terrorism or expansionism, India is fighting the challenges bravely,” Modi said in apparent references to threats from neighboring Pakistan and China.