Shares post 6th straight weekly gain

Shares post 6th straight weekly gain

Mumbai: Indian shares rose for the sixth straight week, their longest streak of weekly gains since last June, climbing 0.3% on Friday, led by gains in Reliance Industries and Bharti Airtel, and supported by firm global markets.

Sentiment was also positive after rating agency Standard and Poor’s lifted its outlook on India to stable on Thursday, citing an improving fiscal position and strong economic growth.

The BSE 30-share Sensex closed 0.34%, or 58.97 points higher, at 17,578.23, its best close in two months.

Seventeen of its components closed in the green.

The benchmark gained 2.4% this week, and but is up only 0.6% so far this year.

“There could be volatility in the near term, depending on how things elsewhere in the globe shape up," said Vaibhav Sanghavi, director of Ambit Capital.

“However, things could look good from the long-term perspective on earnings optimism and economic growth."

Sanghavi expects Sensex to settle around 20,000-21,000 by end-2010.

A Reuters poll expects Sensex to rise to 18,000 points by end-June and end 2010 at 19,250, driven by earnings optimism and supported by robust economic growth.

Foreign funds have poured about $3 billion into Indian equities so far this year -- mostly in the current month, according to data from the markets regulator. But a portion of the funds have been absorbed by primary market offerings.

Energy giant Reliance Industries, which has the highest weight on the main index, rose 1.4% to Rs1,089.80.

Top mobile operator Bharti Airtel closed nearly 4% higher at Rs311.85, after data released by an industry body showed on Thursday that it had added 2.9 million mobile users in February, taking its total subscribers to 124.6 million.

The stock was also catching up after the recent underperformance. It is still down more than 5% so far this year.

Bharti is in talks to buy Kuwaiti firm Zain’s operations in 15 African countries and exclusive negotiations are scheduled to lapse on 25 March.

Financials were mixed. Top lender State Bank of India and private lender HDFC Bank rose 1.4% and 0.8% respectively, while top private lender ICICI Bank dropped 0.6%.

On Thursday, Standard & Poor’s raised its outlook on 12 Indian banks, including the three above, to stable from negative.

There were concerns that monetary tightening could take place earlier than expected after a central bank deputy governor said late on Thursday that the Reserve Bank of India was open to taking policy action ahead of its April 20 policy review.

The central bank is reeling under pressure to raise interest rates for the first time since the global downturn, with headline inflation nearing double digits.

India’s No.2 software services firm Infosys Technologies slipped 0.4%, after it hit all-time highs in the previous session.

Mortgage lender Housing Development Finance Corp dropped 1.6% after gaining more than 2% over three previous sessions.

In the broader market, losers almost matched the gainers in a volume of 412 million shares, slightly lower than that on Thursday.

By 10:33 GMT the MSCI’s measure of Asian markets other than Japan was up 0.3%, while in Europe the FTSEurofirst 300 index rose 0.5%.

The NSE 50-share Nfty closed up 0.3% at 5,262.80.