Markets at 6-week closing low on global woes

Markets at 6-week closing low on global woes

Mumbai: Indian shares shed 1.8% on Wednesday to their lowest close in six weeks as rating downgrades of Greece and Portugal renewed concerns about the health of the global economy and drained investor appetite for risker assets worldwide.

Energy giant Reliance Industries and financials such as private-sector lender ICICI Bank led the losses in the main index, which on Wednesday had its biggest single-day percentage point drop in almost three months.

The 30-share BSE index closed 1.76% lower, or 310.54 points, at 17,380.08 points, its lowest close since 15 March. Only five of the components in the benchmark, which is now down 0.5% year to date, ended Wednesday’s session higher.

“FIIs (foreign institutional investors) may take a negative view on equities as an asset class and emerging markets including India may be impacted to that extent," said Jigar Shah, vice-president of equity sales at brokerage Motilal Oswal.

“But then, our market should do well eventually considering our own fundamental strength."

Foreign funds have pumped in $6.3 billion into Indian equities so far in 2010, with a portion of that invested in primary market issuances.

In 2009, the benchmark had jumped 81%, riding on a wave of foreign-fund inflows of about $17.5 billion.

Top-listed conglomerate Reliance Industries, which has the most weight in the main index, declined 4.2% to Rs1,017, its lowest close in more than one and a half months.

On Tuesday, Citigroup cut its rating on the stock to hold from buy, saying the company’s shares are pricing in a moderate but sustained refining recovery and meaningful exploration upside.

Bharti Airtel dropped 1.3% to Rs294.50 as India’s top mobile operator posted a worse-than-expected 8% fall in quarterly profit with cheap call charges taking a toll.

Private lenders ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank fell 2.9% and 0.6%, respectively, while mortgage lender Housing Development Finance Corp dropped 1.6%.

Top lender State Bank of India bucked the trend and closed 0.9% higher.

Non-ferrous metals producer Sterlite Industries and aluminium maker Hindalco dropped 1.9% and 2.7%, respectively, as industrial metals fell for a second day on Wednesday.

Tata Steel, the world’s eighth-largest steel maker by output, declined 3.5%.

In the broader market, nearly three shares declined for every share that gained, on volume of about 431 million shares.

The 50-share NSE index dropped 1.8% to 5,215.45.

Elsewhere, the MSCI’s measure of Asian markets other than Japan was down 1.6% by 1107 GMT, while the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares shed 1.1%.