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Indian Shares End Lackluster Session Slightly Higher

Indian shares ended a lackluster session on a flat note Tuesday, as caution prevailed ahead of market-moving data this week on industrial output and inflation. Infosys' results due on Friday and the uncertainty before the Reserve Bank of India's upcoming rate-setting meeting on April 17 also prompted investors to remain on the sidelines.

After moving back and forth in a lackluster manner, the benchmark 30-share Sensex finished the session up about 22 points or 0.13 percent at 17,244, with only 12 of its components advancing. The 50-share Nifty index rose by 9 points or 0.18 percent to 5,244, while the BSE mid-cap and small-cap indexes finished in the red.

Rate-sensitive banking, auto and realty stocks closed mostly higher, as speculation gained ground that the RBI will likely cut its repo rate for the first time in three years to help lift faltering economic growth.

State-run lender SBI climbed 2.4 percent, private sector rival HDFC Bank edged up 0.3 percent and Axis Bank added 0.9 percent, while ICICI Bank shed 0.6 percent. Shares of mortgage lender HDFC rose 0.3 percent.

Tata Motors, India's largest automaker, rallied 2.9 percent, but car maker Maruti Suzuki fell 0.7 percent and two-wheeler manufacturer Bajaj Auto slipped 0.2 percent.

Unitech, Godrej Properties, Sobha Developers, DB Realty and Parsvnath Developers were among the prominent gainers in the realty pack, with gains ranging between 0.5 percent and 3.5 percent.

In the FMCG sector, ITC, Hindustan Unilever and Nestle India jumped 2-4 percent on defensive buying amid uncertainty ahead of the corporate earnings season and the RBI's policy meeting due next week. Marico edged up marginally after the company said it will sell 4.56 percent stake in the company to two foreign investors.

Metal stocks such as Hindalco, Jindal Steel, Tata Steel and Sterlite fell between 0.7 percent and 1.4 percent as soft Chinese import data raised concerns about future demand growth for industrial metals in the world's second largest economy.

Infosys fell 1.6 percent ahead of its quarterly results scheduled to be announced on Friday. Rival TCS lost half a percent, while Wipro added 1.5 percent. Both Infosys and Wipro are expected to post slower growth for the March quarter as they cope with a mild appreciation in the rupee and economic uncertainties in the developed countries.

Patni Computer Systems rose over 2 percent after U.S.-based IT outsourcing provider iGate Corporation said it would offer Rs.520 a share to delist Patni from Indian bourses.

Shares of Indraprastha Gas plunged 34 percent after the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board directed the company to cut its network tariff for compressed natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas in New Delhi. Other gas services providers like Gail India and Petronet LNG fell 2-3 percent, while Gujarat Gas slumped 15 percent. TV Today Network tumbled 4.3 percent on stake sale reports.

Thomas Cook soared 12 percent on a Business Standard report that its parent Thomas Cook Group was looking to sell a stake in the company at a significant premium to current market price. KRBL jumped 7.3 percent in the wake of reports that Indian basmati rice exporters have resumed direct shipments to Iran after almost a decade. Cairn India rose 2.1 percent after releasing its production figures for the Jan-March quarter.

On the global front, other Asian markets turned in a mixed performance on Tuesday, as no additional stimulus from the Bank of Japan, mixed views about China's trade data and renewed concerns that the U.S. labor market recovery is still slow prompted investors to adopt a cautious stance. Reviving speculation that the U.S. Federal Reserve may offer additional stimulus to kick-start demand and spur jobs growth helped limit the downside to some extent.

After disappointing U.S. jobs data, investors now eagerly await U.S. corporate earnings and Chinese first-quarter GDP figures, due on Friday for near-term directional cues. European shares fell sharply in early trading, extending a three-week decline, as trading resumed after a four-day holiday weekend.

Commodities traded mixed, with oil extending losses, while copper and gold gained ground, as traders bet on the likelihood of another round of stimulus. The dollar fell to a one-month low against the yen after the Bank of Japan said in a statement accompanying the policy decision that no one proposed expansion of stimulus at the meeting.

by RTT Staff Writer

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