Key Indian equity indices end in red (Roundup)

Mumbai, March 15 (IANS) Losing steam after two successive trading sessions of gains, key Indian equity indices ended in the red on Tuesday, pulled down mainly by healthcare stocks which took a hit after the government banned 344 drug combinations, including popular ones with large market.

The 30-share sensitive index (Sensex) of BSE, which closed on Monday at 24,804.28 points, opened slightly higher on Tuesday at 24,832.04 points. Soon after, the slide started and the 30-share index eventually ended at 24,551.17 points — with a loss of 253.11 points, or 1.02 percent.

At the National Stock Exchange, the 50-share Nifty opened just a tad higher at 7,535.85 points, against the previous close at 7,538.75 points. Thereafter, it, too, saw its fortunes decline to end the day at 7,460.60 points — with a loss of 78.15 points, or 1.04 percent.

“The market slid on profit booking amid investors taking a cautionary step ahead of the US Fed policy meet due on Tuesday-Wednesday,” said Vinod Nair, head of fundamental research with Geojit BNP Paribas Financial Services

“The Fed is likely to hold their current interest rate as global uncertainty may refrain them from a rate hike decision. On the macro front, the retail inflation eased to 5.18 percent, which will give some room for the Reserve Bank of India to cut their interest rate.”

The general trend was also cautious, with as many as 22 stocks that go into the Sensex basked ending in the negative territory. Only eight managed to stay afloat. At the NSE, 35 Nifty stocks declined, while 15 were up.

A further look at the 19 sector-specific indices of BSE showed that the index for healthcare fell the most by 3.01 percent percent, against the fall of 1.02 percent in the Sensex. This was followed by fast-moving consumer goods, down 1.54 percent.

In the past weekend, the government banned 344 drug combinations through a gazette notification, based on recommendations of an expert committee. The health ministry has also come down heavily on the misuse of anti-biotics.

Five indices stayed afloat — energy, banking, consumer durables, metals and oil and gas.

Again among the Sensex stocks, four out of top five losers were from healthcare. Lupin, down 7.59 percent at Rs.1,726.60; Dr. Reddy, down 2.96 percent at Rs.3,138.65; Cipla, down 2.48 percent at Rs.524.70; and Sun Pharma, down 2.33 percent at Rs.843.90 were also the only four on the Sensex.

Otherwise, the top five gainers were State Bank of India, up 1.84 percent at Rs.185.25; Tata Steel, up 1.18 percent at Rs.299.80; Bharti Airtel, up 0.81 percent at Rs.343.65; Axis Bank, up 0.77 percent at Rs.419.15; and Bharat Heavy Electricals, up 0.52 percent at Rs.106.15.

“Overseas also, the stock markets edged lower as crude prices continued to slide in Asia after hopes that major crude producers will freeze output to ease a world surplus were dashed,” said Shreyash Devalkar, fund manager for equities with BNP Paribas Mutual Fund.

“Benign macro-economic data failed to enthuse participants as the markets trundled downwards into the negative zone,” he said, adding the action was mixed on the sectoral end with pharma, media, IT, fast-moving consumer goods, witnessing heavy selling pressure.

“Buying interest was seen in banking and metal stocks.”

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