At $84 per barrel, further cuts in retail fuel prices expected
Global crude oil prices dropped to $84 per barrel on Wednesday, raising hopes that retail fuel prices will be slashed further. India currently imports around 190 million tonnes of crude oil per year or two-thirds of the nation's total energy demand, at a cost of $145 billion. This accounts for more than a third of the nation's import bill. Besides causing a reduction in fiscal deficit (the amount of money the government borrows to fund its expenses), the fall in crude oil prices will also ease prices of domestic food and fuel. Oil companies on Tuesday slashed petrol prices by Re 1 per litre, with diesel due to fall by Rs 2.50 in the next few days.

Exit polls predict that BJP will form the government in Maharashtra, Haryana
The Bharatiya Janata Party is expected to form the government in Haryana and Maharshtra, according to data released by various exit polls on Wednesday, Voting in both states concluded on Wednesday. The exit poll released by Today's Chanakya gave the BJP 151 seats, a clear majority in the 288-member assembly, besides predicting a win in 52 out 90 seats in Haryana. However, exit polls released by ABP-Nielsen, NewsX-AxisAPM and the TimesNow-CVoter suggested that the BJP will not cross the halfway mark in either state. Haryana recorded its highest-ever voter turnout of 73%. Maharashtra recorded a turnout of 63.4%, roughly 4% higher than the 2009 assembly polls.

Health Ministry issues sterner directives on cigarette packaging, branding
The Union health ministry on Wednesday ordered all tobacco companies to stamp health warnings across 85% of the surface of cigarette packs and other products by April 1. At present, tobacco companies stamp health warnings on only 20% of the packet. Under the new rule 60% of the pack's surface will have to carry pictorial warnings, with written warnings on another 25%.

India must sign WTO agreement by October 21 or risk being left out, says EU
The chairman of European Union trade ministers on Wednesday said that India must sign the World Trade Organisation-backed global "trade facilitation" deal by next Tuesday, or risk being left out of the agreement that seeks to ease worldwide customs rules. In July, the National Democratic Alliance-led government blocked the deal because one of the provisions in the agreement stated that farm subsidies cannot be more than 10% of the value of agricultural production. India's Food Security Act ensures that domestic agricultural subsidies could exceed the limit set by WTO.

India and China to discuss last month's border stand-off today
Senior government officials from India and China on Thursday will discuss last month's three-week-long standoff between both their troops at the Line of Actual Control. Meanwhile on Wednesday Beijing expressed its concerns at India's intention to construct a 1,800 km-long road along the border and warned that it may complicate tensions on the border. "Before final settlement [to demarcate the border] is reached, we hope that India will not take any action that may further complicate the situation," China's foreign ministry spokesman said.