Sensex up 0.2%, RIL leads gains

Sensex up 0.2%, RIL leads gains

Mumbai: Indian shares crawled 0.2% higher in choppy trade on Wednesday, helped by small gains in world equities, but concerns over unrest in the Middle East weighed on investor sentiment.

Energy firm Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) led the charge.

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RIL, which has the highest weighting on the Bombay Stock Exchange’s bellwether Sensex index, gained nearly 1% after the upstream regulator said it is likely to raise gas output from its east coast blocks to 67 million standard cubic metres a day by April.

The 30-share Sensex gained 0.16%, or 30.30 points, to 18,469.95, with 16 of its components advancing.

“Steady world markets supported our market today (Wednesday)," said Ambareesh Baliga, vice-president of Karvy Stock Broking Ltd.

He expects the National Stock Exchange’s Nifty index to trade in a 5,400-5,600 range over the next two weeks.

The 50-share Nifty closed 0.2% higher at 5,531 points.

“We are hoping the Middle East crisis will end soon. But we need to see how the developments unfold," Baliga said.

The Sensex is down nearly 10% year-to-date as foreign funds sold a net $1.9 billion (Rs8,550 crore) of stocks from the start of the year to 7 March.

Indian stocks got an early boost after the ruling Congress party struck a deal with a key ally in a row over seat-sharing in Tamil Nadu assembly elections, ending days of jitters over the stability of a government already hit by a series of crises. The decision by the Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam is a respite for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as he battles a series of corruption scandals as well as inflation problems, which have already weakened his government.

The country’s No. 2 mobile operator Reliance Communications Ltd (RCom) closed up 9.4% and was the most traded among the main stocks on BSE.

Earlier in the day, a television news channel reported that American Tower Corp. could be the highest bidder for RCom’s tower arm.

The report, however, said bidders for the tower unit were seeking significant discount due to uncertainty in the country’s telecom sector. RCom’s plan to merge its tower unit with a rival to pare debt had collapsed last year. An RCom spokesman declined comment.

Auto makers raced ahead as car sales in India rose 22.6% in February, an industry body said, driven by a growing middle class in Asia’s third largest economy.

Vehicle makers Tata Motors Ltd, Maruti Suzuki (India) Ltd, Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd, Bajaj Auto Ltd and Hero Honda Motors Ltd rose between 0.2% and 2.3%.

IT bellwether Infosys Technologies Ltd dropped 0.6% as investors booked profits.

The market breadth was positive, with gainers outnumbering losers in the ratio 1.3:1 in a volume of 280 million shares on BSE, almost in line with the exchange’s 30-day daily average volume of 281 million shares.

Graphics by Naveen Kumar Saini/Mint