US to send troops to Saudi Arabia

The US has announced plans to send forces to Saudi Arabia in the wake of attacks against the country’s oil infrastructure.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told reporters the deployment would be “defensive in nature”. Total troop numbers have not yet been decided.

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the attacks against two oil facilities last week.

But the US and Saudi Arabia have both blamed Iran itself.

What are Trump’s options on Iran?
Why would Iran raise the stakes by attacking Saudi Arabia?

Earlier on Friday however, President Trump announced “highest level” sanctions against Iran while signalling he wanted to avoid military conflict.

“I think the strong person approach, and the thing that does show strength, would be showing a little bit of restraint,” he told reporters in the Oval Office.

The fresh sanctions will focus on Iran’s central bank and its sovereign wealth fund, Mr Trump said.

What did the Pentagon say?
Mr Esper made the announcement alongside the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen Joseph Dunford Jr on Friday.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates requested assistance, Mr Esper said. The forces will focus on boosting air and missile defences, and the US will “accelerate the delivery of military equipment” to both nations.

Gen Dunford called the deployment “moderate” and said it would not number in the thousands. He gave no further details about the type of forces to be sent.

According to the New York Times, when reporters asked Mr Esper if military strikes on Iran were still being considered, the defence secretary responded: “That’s not where we are right now.”

What happened in Saudi Arabia?
Strikes hit the Abqaiq oil facility and the Khurais oil field in Saudi Arabia a week ago, affecting the global oil supply.

On Wednesday, the kingdom’s defence ministry showed off what it says are the remains of drones and cruises missiles proving Iranian involvement. The country is however still “working to know exactly the launch point”, a spokesman said.

The US also alleges Iran is responsible. Senior officials have told US media outlets they had evidence the attacks originated in the south of Iran.

Iran has repeatedly denied any role in the strikes, with President Hassan Rouhani calling the attacks a reciprocal act by the “Yemeni people”.

“US is in denial if it thinks that Yemeni victims of 4.5 yrs of the worst war crimes wouldn’t do all to strike back,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted.

Who’s using armed drones in the Middle East?
Why Saudi Arabia and Iran are bitter rivals
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had called the strikes “an act of war”.

Mr Zarif warned on Twitter that Iran had no desire for war but “we will not hesitate to defend ourselves”.

What’s the background to all this?
The Houthis have repeatedly launched rockets, missiles and drones at populated areas in Saudi Arabia. They are in conflict with a Saudi-led coalition which backs a president who the rebels had forced to flee when the Yemeni conflict escalated in March 2015.

Iran is the regional rival of Saudi Arabia and an opponent of the US, which pulled out of a treaty aimed at limiting Tehran’s nuclear programme after Mr Trump took power.

US-Iran tensions have risen markedly this year.

The US said Iran was behind attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf in June and July, as well as on another four in May. Tehran rejected the accusations in both cases.


Investors Become Richer By Nearly Rs. 7 Lakh Crore In A Single Day On Corporate Tax Annoucement

Investor wealth on Friday zoomed a whopping Rs. 6.82 lakh crore in single day as equity markets rallied, with the Sensex skyrocketing 2,284 points in intra-day trade, following a slew of economy-boosting measures announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The 30-share key BSE index zoomed 1,921.15 points or 5.32 per cent to close at 38,014.62. During the day, it advanced 2,284.55 points to 38,378.02, its biggest intra-day spike in over a decade. The bull market led the market capitalisation of the BSE-listed companies to soar Rs. 6,82,938.6 crore to Rs. 1,45,37,378.01 crore in single day.

The government on Friday slashed the corporate tax rate for companies by almost 10 percentage points to 25.2 per cent and offered a lower rate to 17.01 per cent for new manufacturing firms to boost economic growth rate.

In the fourth phase of post-budget economic stimulus measures, Ms Sitharaman cut base corporate tax for existing companies to 22 per cent from the current 30 per cent; and for new manufacturing firms, incorporated after October 1, 2019, and starting operations before March 31, 2023, to 15 per cent from the current 25 per cent.

Ms Sitharaman also said no tax will be charged on share buyback by listed companies that announced such a move prior to July 5. Also, super-rich tax by way of enhanced surcharge on income, announced in the July 5 Budget, will not apply to capital gains arising on equity sale or equity-oriented funds liable to securities transaction tax (STT) with a view to stabilise flow of funds into capital markets.

“The biggest event of the week was the cut in corporate tax rates as announced by the finance minister. This is a huge step in boosting the overall profitability of corporate India. “This step, along with some other measures announced including the enhanced tax surcharge introduced in July 2019 to not apply to capital gains on sale of equity share which is subject to STT, would go a big way in restoring confidence in the Indian equity markets,” said Shibani Kurian, senior vice-president and head of equity research, Kotak Mahindra Asset Management Company.

Religare Broking Vice-President (Research) Ajit Mishra said it turned out to be a historic session for equity markets as Nifty gained over 5 per cent. Participants rejoiced the announcements made by the finance minister to boost the economy and market sentiments, wherein the cut in corporate tax turned out to be the catalyst.

The announcements came just in time as markets were reeling under tremendous pressure, citing weak domestic sentiments and not-so-encouraging global markets, Mr Mishra added. From the BSE 30-share basket, 25 scrips closed with hefty gains led by Hero MotoCorp, Maruti Suzuki India, IndusInd Bank, Bajaj Finance, State Bank of India and Mahindra & Mahindra and zoomed up to 12.52 per cent.

On the BSE, 1,864 scrips advanced, while 728 declined and 144 remained unchanged. Sectorally, the BSE auto, bankex, capital goods, consumer durables, finance, energy, oil and gas, metal and telecom indices rallied up to 9.85 per cent. In the broader market, the BSE Midcap and Smallcap indices also rose by up to 6.28 per cent.

The rupee too appreciated 66 paise to 70.68 against US dollar following the Finance Minister’s announcements.