Prolonged outflow of foreign funds and heavy selling pressure in banking stocks led the Indian equity markets to close on a flat-to-negative note on Wednesday.
Besides, investors' sentiments were hampered by weak global cues and caution over the ongoing fourth quarter results season.
The wider 51-scrip Nifty of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) inched down by 1.65 points or 0.02 per cent to 9,103.50 points.
On the other hand, the barometer 30-scrip sensitive index (Sensex) of the BSE, which opened at 29,369.90 points, closed at 29,336.57 points -- up a mere 17.47 points or 0.06 per cent from the previous close at 29,319.10 points.
The Sensex touched a high of 29,388.25 points and a low of 29,241.48 points during the intra-day trade.
The BSE market breadth was bullish -- with 1,563 advances and 1,278 declines.
"Markets ended almost flat on Wednesday after a range bound session. Stocks moved in a small range in a listless session of trade amid divergent trend in various index constituents," Deepak Jasani, Head - Retail Research, HDFC Securities, told IANS.
"Broad market indices like the BSE mid-cap and small-cap indices ended with bigger gains, thereby outperforming the Sensex. The mid-cap index was within a per cent of lifetime high."
In terms of the broader markets, the S&P BSE mid-cap index was up by 0.66 per cent, while the small-cap index closed higher by 0.76 per cent.
Anand James, Chief Market Strategist, Geojit Financial Services, said: "Earnings so far have failed to impress, and with elections uncertainties gripping the EU (European Union), currency volatility also has stepped up, restraining Indian stocks."
On the currency front, the Indian rupee strengthened by five paise to 64.58 against a US dollar from its previous close of 64.63 to a greenback.
In terms of investments, provisional data with the exchanges showed that the foreign institutional investors (FIIs) sold scrip worth Rs 673.38 crore, while the domestic institutional investors (DIIs) purchased scrip worth Rs 525.52 crore.
According to Dhruv Desai, Director and Chief Operating Officer of Tradebulls, the equity benchmark indices witnessed volatile trades throughout the session.
"The Bank Nifty traded with volatile sentiments tracking the Indian equity market, and finally closed with losses tracking selling pressure in most banking stocks led by PSU banks," Desai told IANS.
"Along with metals, FMCG remained the top performing sectors on the positive side."
Sector-wise, the S&P BSE banking index dipped by 129.87 points, followed by the healthcare index, which slipped by 34.44 points, and the IT index, which fell by 32.73 points.
In contrast, the capital goods index rose by 66.87, the metal index was up by 61.35 points and the power index was higher by 46.31 points.
Major Sensex gainers on Wednesday were: Power Grid, up 4.35 per cent at Rs 211.15; Adani Ports, up 1.88 per cent at Rs 325.70; NTPC, up 1.86 per cent at Rs 164.70; Coal India, up 1.24 per cent at Rs 282.55; and Maruti Suzuki, up 1.02 per cent at Rs 6,200.05.
Major Sensex losers were: State Bank of India (SBI), down 2.05 per cent at Rs 284.20; Dr. Reddy's Lab, down 0.73 per cent at Rs 2,611.30; ICICI Bank, down 0.72 per cent at Rs 280.95; ONGC, down 0.66 per cent at Rs 179.85; and Hero MotoCorp, down 0.60 per cent at Rs 3,204.60.