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Stocks

Shares end almost flat as heavyweights keep indexes afloat

MUMBAI (NewsRise) -- Indian shares ended little changed Tuesday, as persistent buying in select index heavyweights overshadowed downbeat regional sentiment stemming from China's disappointing trade data.

    The benchmark BSE Sensex ended 0.05% higher at 24,659.23 points, adding slightly to last week's over 6% gain. India markets were shut Monday for a local holiday. The broader NSE Nifty 50 Index ended unchanged at 7,485.30 points Tuesday.

    Index heavyweights Reliance Industries and Housing Development Finance Corp advanced, while banking stocks, Maruti Suzuki India and software services providers led the declines on the Sensex.

    China's trade data worsened significantly in February, with exports declining a much wider-than-expected 25.4% year-on-year and imports slipping 13.8%. The numbers reignited concerns about the health of Asia's largest economy, which have roiled global markets in 2016. Last week, in a bid to support the nation's flagging economy China's central bank cut the quantum of reserves required by large lenders. 

    Most Asian indexes fell, with Japan's Nikkei 225 index slipping 0.76% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng falling 0.73%. South Korea's KOSPI shed 0.74%. The Shanghai Composite index eked out a 0.09% gain Tuesday, erasing early losses.

    Sixteen of the 30 Sensex constituents ended higher, while overall declining issues outnumbered advancing ones 1,329 to 1,318 and 144 closed unchanged.

    "Foreign institutional investor flows will be the key driver for Indian markets and will dictate the near term trend of the markets," said Akash Jain, Vice President - Research at Ajcon Global.

    Overseas investors, who withdrew $2.86 billion in Indian equities during January and February, have bought local shares worth over $850 million in March, as the government's pledge to stick to its fiscal deficit targets cheered markets.

    Index heavyweights mortgage provider Housing Development Finance Corp and industrial conglomerate Reliance Industries advanced 1.56% to 1,146.05 rupees and 2.05% to 1,027.15 rupees.

    ITC rose 1.66% to 321.25 rupees, extending last week's over 8% advance after the government's federal budget increased the excise duty on cigarettes by a lower-than-expected margin.

    Metal stocks were among the best performing stocks Tuesday as China's monetary easing last week, expectations of additional stimulus and improved U.S. economic data supported a rebound in global metal prices.

    Tata Steel, among the largest steel producers in the world, rose 1.21% to 291.85 rupees. Zinc miner Vedanta and aluminum producer Hindalco Industries advanced 3.5% to 90.30 rupees and 4.73% to 83.10 rupees. Iron ore and copper explorer NMDC rose 6.12% to 94.50 rupees.

    Profit taking hurt India's banking stocks Tuesday, with the BSE Bankex slipping 1.29%.

    State Bank of India and ICICI Bank fell 2.52% to 183.65 rupees and 1.66% to 216.85 rupees. India's largest banks by assets posted their largest weekly advance of 21% and 19.5% since 2009 last week as the government's fiscal prudence fuelled expectations of a rate cut by the Reserve Bank of India. The central bank's move to ease capital recognition norms also supported the gains in banking stocks in recent sessions.

    Private lenders HDFC Bank and Axis Bank fell 0.51% to 1,015.85 rupees and 0.99% to 411.70 rupees Tuesday.

    Maruti Suzuki India fell 2.9% to 3,461.55 rupees. India's largest carmaker hiked the price of a clutch of models last week to pass on an infrastructure cess introduced by the government. Last week, the automaker reported a tepid increase in February domestic sales as agitation in North India led to production losses.

    Hindustan Unilever declined 2.48% to 827.55 rupees. The consumer goods giant was among the underperformers last week, as investors flocked towards ITC after the lower-than-expected hike in cigarette excise, dealers said.

    Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services fell 0.6% to 1,163.55 rupees and 0.2% to 2,354.40 rupees. The information technology majors advanced 4.5% and 6.5% last week.

    Larsen & Toubro and Bharat Heavy Electricals fell 0.54% to 1,187.30 rupees and 1.07% to 106.10 rupees. The engineering major and the power equipment maker posted gains of 7.5% and 13% last week.

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