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India shares jump as banks rally on government move to curb bad loans

MUMBAI (NewsRise) -- Indian shares rose Thursday, with the Nifty index hitting a record high, as banks paced the gains amid reports the government cleared a proposal to help resolve industrywide bad loans.

The benchmark BSE Sensex index advanced 0.8%, or 231.41 points, to 30,126.21, while the broader NSE Nifty 50 ended up 0.5%, or 47.95 points, at 9,359.90. ICICI Bank, the nation's biggest private lender, jumped the most in about eight years after saying it expects "significantly lower" additions to its soured debt this fiscal year.

The BSE Bankex index rose to a record amid reports India's federal cabinet okayed amendments to the Banking Regulation Act and Prevention of Corruption Act as part of efforts to help lenders tackle 9.64 trillion rupees ($150 billion) of bad debt. The Bankex gained 2.3% on Thursday, its biggest leap since February.

"The government is one step closer to a new non-performing asset policy, and that has given some energy to the market," Vinod Nair, head of research at Geojit Financial Services, said. "Banks are in a sweet spot."

ICICI Bank soared 9.2% to 297.95 rupees. The lender said Wednesday it expects bad loan additions in the year started in April to be sharply lower from the previous year. Its profit in the January-March quarter nearly tripled owing to a low base and lower provisioning for bad loans.

Axis Bank rose 3.6% to 518.90 rupees. State Bank of India, the nation's largest state-owned lender, climbed 3.3% to 298.80 rupees.

Mortgage lender Housing Development Finance Corp. slipped 0.4% to 1,564.40 rupees after the company posted a 21.6% drop in standalone net profit for the fourth quarter from a year-earlier period.

Among other key movers, steel manufacturers rallied after the cabinet approved a proposal that made compulsory the use of local steel for government infrastructure projects.

Steel Authority of India rose 0.4% to 61.60 rupees while Tata Steel ended 0.5% higher at 442.65 rupees. Jindal Steel & Power and JSW Steel added 0.6% to 112.80 rupees and 0.4% to 194.15 rupees.

Reliance Industries fell for a sixth consecutive day, ending 0.8% lower at 1,358.75 rupees. Tata Motors lost 2.3% to end at 436.50 rupees.

Elsewhere in Asia, China's Shanghai Composite index ended 0.3% lower and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index lost 0.1%. South Korea's Kospi index rose 1%. Stock markets in Japan remained shut due to public holidays.

--Dhanya Ann Thoppil

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