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Equities

India shares jump to record on forecast of stronger monsoon rain

MUMBAI (NewsRise) -- Indian shares rose to a record on Wednesday, as forecast of above-average monsoon rains this year buoyed hopes of faster economic growth, lifting demand for stocks such as Hindustan Unilever.

The BSE Sensex index gained 1.1%, or 314.92 points, to close at 30,248.17, while the broader NSE Nifty 50 index added 1%, or 90.45 points, to 9,407.30. The indices previously closed at their record highs on Apr. 27 and May 5.

"Apart from money flowing in through domestic institutions, the projection of above-normal monsoon stimulated buying in consumer company stocks," said Saurabh Jain, assistant vice-president of research, at SMC Global Securities. "However, valuations look a bit stretched and we should see some correction."

Twenty two of the 30 Sensex constituents ended higher on Wednesday, while overall advancing issues outnumbered declining ones 1,618 to 1,237 and 166 closed unchanged.

Shares of fast-moving consumer goods makers such as Hindustan Unilever outperformed the broader market after an India Meteorological Department official said late Tuesday that the country is likely to see above-average monsoon in 2017. The June-September rainfall, which accounts for 70% of India's annual precipitation, is crucial for farm output as more than half the farmlands in the country depend on the annual showers for irrigation.

IMD Director-General K.J. Ramesh told Reuters that India will likely receive above-average monsoon this year as concerns over the El Nino weather condition have eased in the past few weeks. The weather office in its first forecast on Apr. 18 said monsoon rains would be at 96% of a 50-year average.

Hindustan Unilever ended at a record high, up 4.6% at 995.90 rupees, while cigarette-maker ITC advanced 0.9% to 273.90 rupees, its first gain in four days.

Mortgage lender Housing Development Finance Corp. rose 3.3% to 1,572.80 rupees, while utility vehicle and tractor maker Mahindra & Mahindra advanced 2.6% to 1,376.70 rupees.

Mobile phone operator Bharti Airtel jumped 7.9% to 372.70 rupees, despite posting a near 72% decline in net income for the January-March quarter. The stock closed at the highest level since Feb. 20 and recorded the largest single-session gain since September 2013. The earnings were released after market hours on Tuesday.

"Bharti's strong data spectrum/network portfolio should allow it to compete" with Reliance Jio, the wireless unit of Reliance Industries, brokerage Motilal Oswal said in a report. "Over next two years, Bharti has the potential to raise its market standing and reduce capex, generating healthy free cash flow."

Zee Entertainment Enterprises ended up 4% at 516.05 rupees after the company said fourth-quarter profit jumped almost seven times, helped by a one-time gain from the sale of its sports television business to Japan's Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Information technology stocks snapped two days of gains, with the sector index declining 0.4%, amid speculation that software exporters are gearing for major job cuts as they face unfavorable changes in U.S. visa norms and weak revenues. U.S. is the largest market for Indian software companies.

Leading among losers, index heavyweight Infosys closed 0.4% lower at 943.20 rupees. Larger rival Tata Consultancy Services declined 0.9% to 2,332.50 rupees and Wipro fell 1.6% to 500.35 rupees.

Two-wheeler manufacturer Hero MotoCorp rose 1% to close at 3,322.40 rupees ahead of its fourth-quarter earnings due later in the day.

Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index ended up 0.5% while Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.3%. China's Shanghai Composite index lost 0.9%.

--Dhanya Ann Thoppil

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