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Sensex fights back fears
- markets scurry for cover as war drums roll

Mumbai, March 17: Monday misery — that sums up the session for markets spooked by a war which could be hours, not days, away. Dalal Street wrapped up a roller-coaster ride with a 23-point slide in the BSE sensex.

US President George W. Bush jaw-boned business on Sunday when he gave diplomats around the world a day’s time to break the gridlock on Iraq. A war, he warned, would break out if there was no breakthrough.

Brokers said it was a modest rally in the shares of state-owned firms that helped stem an early decline on bourses. Driving the rebound were reports that several big names in oil had thrown their hats in the HPCL ring.

The share was the best performer of the day, flaring up on the reports that Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Saudi Aramco, Reliance Industries and Kuwait Petroleum were among those to have expressed interest in the government’s 34.01 per cent stake in the firm.

Infotech stocks were clobbered, pummelled by fears that a battle in Iraq could choke orders from the US, which accounts for 60 per cent of their export revenues. Reflecting the nervousness, Infosys lost 1 per cent, while Satyam Computer shed 0.5 percentage point.

The sensex opened firm at 3115.14 from Friday’s close of 3108.24, slipped to near four-month lows at 3049.05 before recovering partially to close at 3084.91, a fall of 0.75 per cent.

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