Mumbai: Shares were barely changed on Thursday in the absence of no clear direction from Asian markets and as traders awaited weekly food and fuel inflation data due around 11:30am.
Rising prices of food and other commodities in recent weeks have strengthened expectations for an interest rate increase when the central bank reviews policy on 25 January, and this has dampened investor sentiment.
Quarterly earnings that begin from next week have also pushed investors to the sidelines, after the market climbed more than 17% in 2010.
Leading lenders State Bank of India and ICICI Bank were down 1.4% and 0.4% respectively.
Tata Steel was up 1.1% after New Millennium Capital Corp said it received environmental approval for its iron ore project with the Indian steelmaker and the joint venture partners expect to begin production by the second quarter of 2012.
By 10:21am, the 30-share BSE index was trading down 0.03% at 20,295.40, with 17 of its components declining.
“People are cautious ahead of earnings next week,” said Deven Choksey, managing director and CEO of KR Choksey Shares.
Brokerage Motilal Oswal expects aggregate quarterly profits after tax for Sensex-30 companies to rise 23% from the year before, on the back of a 17% sales growth.
A Reuters poll on Wednesday forecast the central bank would raise key rates by at least 25 basis points by the end of this month to tackle rising inflationary pressures.
Foreign funds have bought around $270 million of Indian equities in the first two trading sessions this year, after pumping in a record $29.3 billion in 2010.
Energy giant Reliance Industries, which has the highest weight on the main index, was up 0.5%. The stock had underperformed the main index in 2010, falling nearly 3%.
In the broader market, losers and gainers were almost equal in number on volume of 73 million shares.
The 50-share NSE index was almost unchanged at 6,080.45.
The MSCI’s measure of Asian markets other than Japan was down 0.1% while Japan’s Nikkei was trading 1.3% higher.
Suzlon Energy rose 0.9% to 54.95 rupees after the Indian wind turbine maker said it had signed a $191 million agreement with Hindustan Zinc, a unit of Vedanta Resources, to operate and maintain 150 megawatt wind projects in India.
State-run Power Grid Corp of India was up 1.1% at Rs 99.15 after JPMorgan upgraded the electricity transmission utility to overweight from neutral.