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Selloff spasm sends stocks on the skids

Mumbai, Sept. 6: Dalal Street was on the edge today, unsettled by worries about the fate of the government’s plan to privatise more PSUs and reports that the US had already gone ahead with air strikes on Iraq.

The sensex lost 1.27 percent at 3,141.11 points, or 40.36 points, as nerves jangled on whether the government would overcome resistance at a key meeting of the Cabinet panel on disinvestment slated for Saturday.

Blue chips drifted and public sector companies shed gains built over the past few days as operators doubted the Centre’s ability to win approval for sale of HPCL and BPCL.

The 30-share index opened on a weak note at 3176.15 and hit its intra-day low at 3131.15. It later closed a little higher at 3,141.11 points. Apart from PSU shares, it was infotech stocks that had to face the wrath of investors.

Reports that the government is sharply divided on privatisation of oil majors have depressed these stocks. While BPCL plummeted more than 3.72 per cent to finish at Rs 254, HPCL recouped early losses to end marginally lower at Rs 271.20. Other state-owned companies also took it on their chin because of renewed jitters the disinvestment programme was floundering. For instance, share prices of Nalco, dipped by 6.50 per cent to Rs 105.50, while that of Balmer Lawrie & Co Ltd fell over 3.50 per cent to Rs 90.20.

In the forex markets, stories about the impact of US attack on Iraq sent the rupee tumbling to 48.58/59 to a dollar from its previous close of 48.48/49. The government securities markets, too, showed signs of increased weakness with gilt prices tumbling 25-30 paise.

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