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Indian Shares End Off Day's Low

Indian shares extended losses for a second consecutive session on Thursday, as concerns about growth prospects in the world's two largest economies prompted investors to square off long positions on the expiry of March series derivative contracts.

Having said that, a 2 percent drop in oil prices overnight on news of a surge in U.S. crude inventories and the possible release of crude reserves by the U.S., the U.K., Japan and France in the next few months, and rising expectations that Eurozone finance ministers would approve an expanded European bailout facility helped limit the downside to some extent.

With the rupee weakening further and confusion prevailing over General Anti-Avoidance Rules (GAAR), the benchmark 30-share Sensex hit an intra-day low of 16,921 in the afternoon. As the session progressed, late buying interest in healthcare, consumer durable, auto, metal and realty stocks helped the benchmark index cut losses and end down 63 points or 0.37 percent at 17,059.

The broader Nifty index fell by 16 points or 0.31 percent at 5,179, while the BSE mid-cap and small-cap indexes outperformed, rising 0.2 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.

Energy giant Reliance Industries closed down 0.2 percent in volatile trading. Banks stocks cut their early losses, with ICICI Bank ending down 0.4 percent and HDFC Bank falling half a percent, while state-run lender SBI lost 0.9 percent.

Shares of telecom major Bharti Airtel and rival Idea Cellular fell around 1.5 percent each after reports emerged that the department of telecom will likely impose Rs 1,000 crore fine on Airtel, Vodafone, Idea for violating 3G license conditions.

Engineering & construction giant Larsen & Toubro lost 2.1 percent, IT stocks such as TCS and Infosys fell around 2 percent each, power-equipment manufacturer BHEL declined 1.4 percent and diversified business conglomerate ITC shed 0.9 percent. Shares of Oil India fell 3.8 percent post adjustment for a bonus issue.

Fortis Healthcare fell 1.8 percent on stake sale reports. Unitech lost 1.6 percent on reports that the income department has seized shares owned by the company in its joint venture with mobile telecom company Uninor.

Among those that gained, IVRCL soared almost 8 percent on a brokerage upgrade after Essel Group bought a 10.2 percent stake in the company. Likewise, Hexaware Technologies rallied 3.3 percent after Credit Suisse raised its share price target for the IT and process outsourcing firm.

Coal India added half a percent on reports the company's board will meet again today to decide on fuel supply agreements with power companies. ONGC rose 1.1 percent after the state-run oil explorer won operating rights for four blocks out of the 16 blocks awarded under the country's ninth exploration licensing round.

Alchemist was locked at the 10 percent upper circuit limit after the company said it has allotted 6.4 lakh equity shares at Rs 215 per share to a promoter group company.

In economic news, the cumulative growth of India's eight core industries, which have a combined weight of 37.9 percent in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), grew 6.8 percent in February from a year earlier, sharply higher than the upwardly revised annual growth of 0.7 percent in the previous month, mainly due to increased output of coal, cement, electricity and petroleum refinery products, data released by the Commerce and Industry Ministry showed today.

On the global front, Asian stocks fell broadly for a second straight day and European stocks hit three-week lows, as lower commodity prices and weaker-than-expected economic data from the U.K. and the U.S. stoked concerns about the global economy. Concerns over slowing growth in China, a huge importer of raw materials, and worries about Spain's fiscal health also sapped appetite for riskier assets.

by RTT Staff Writer

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