The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tuesday tumble stuns all Sensex bleeds 121 points

Mumbai, March 22: You can call it the Ides of March, only a few days late. The markets today roiled under the combined weight of high crude prices and a slowdown in foreign institutional investment. Large-scale profit booking saw the sensex closing lower by 121 points. This is the single-biggest fall since January 12 this year.

The across-the-board selling resulted in the 30-share BSE sensex closing 1.82 per cent lower at 6545.45 and the S&P CNX nifty dropping 35 points to end at a 25-day closing low of 2061.60. The markets have thus fallen 380 points from an intra-day high of 6948 on March 11.

Today's unloading came largely on account of two worries ' rising crude oil prices and a slowdown in FII interest as the year draws to a close. Market circles feel that while international crude rates may touch the $70-per-barrel-mark, it could bring its own set of problems for the country in the form of higher inflation.

Moreover, even as FII inflows have come down from their highs, operators and high net-worth individuals too are booking profits before this fiscal comes to a close. 'What is contributing to the market's fall is the lack of buyers,' an analyst added.

Data available with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) reveal that net investment by FIIs on Monday was Rs 43.80 crore ($10 million), sharply down from Rs 136 crore in the previous session. The highest net investment by these investors in this month was at Rs 2897.50 crore.

The sensex, which opened steady at 6655.78, was in the red for most part of the trading. However, profit-booking started towards late noon and the index hit an intra-day low of 6520.15, before closing at 6535.45 against yesterday's 6656.69, a net loss of 121.24 points or 1.82 per cent.

In today's trading, banking scrips were the worst affected. State Bank of India (SBI) lost Rs 29.45 to Rs 693 and ICICI Bank dropped by over 3 per cent to Rs 395.20. Vijaya Bank also witnessed heavy selling.

Reliance Industries, Tata Motors, Tata Steel, HPCL, Grasim, Hindalco also recorded sharp falls. Analysts feel the automobile companies will be worst hit by firm crude prices.

However, a section of the market continued to remain optimistic. A portfolio manager said the Indian economy is likely to post a robust performance and the long-term fundamentals of the domestic companies and banking sectors continue to be strong.

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