The Nifty50 index saw its sharpest one-day fall on Monday, crashing 13 per cent, as the virtual shutdown of the economy to contain the spread of coronavirus spooked investors. The selloff was so severe that it shaved off a record Rs 14 trillion of market capitalisation. Over the weekend, the Centre and many state governments announced lockdowns, bringing the economy to a grinding halt, as the tally of those infected surged past 450 and the death toll reached nine, raising fears of a community spread.
Market experts said investors were afraid of the unprecedented disruption to business activity pushing the country into a prolonged recession if the outbreak did not stem. The Nifty dropped 1,135 points, or 13 per cent, to close at 7,610, the lowest since April 8, 2016. This was the steepest fall for the index, both in percentage and point terms.
The Sensex dropped 3,935 points, or 13.2 per cent, to end at 25,981, the lowest close since December 26, 2016. Both Nifty Midcap 100 and Smallcap 100 indices fell to near six-year lows. In the opening trade, the Sensex plunged 10 per cent, triggering an hour-long trading halt. On March 13 — when the markets last hit a lower circuit — the index had rebounded 16 per cent on the resumption of trade. However, on Monday, there was little respite as the benchmark indices ended close to the day’s lows.
“We believe that this is not yet done with and recovery will take a long time. India was already on a sticky wicket with a slowing economy before the outbreak. Investors are pinning their hopes entirely on monetary and fiscal measures,” said Prasanna Pathak, head of equities, Taurus Mutual Fund.
Most global markets also saw sharp declines, but India was the only major market to log a double-digit percentage fall.
Some experts said the fear that India may shut down the markets could have accelerated. Policymakers world over have announced massive relief packages to support their economies. “Globally, we have already seen unprecedented measures on the monetary and the fiscal fronts and in some places, they seem to have exhausted all ammunition. The RBI and the government, so far, supposedly kept the gunpowder dry for use at the right time,” said Pathak.
All the Sensex and Nifty components ended with losses on Monday. Shares of several marquee companies, including Axis Bank, Bajaj Finserv, and Bajaj Finance, lost nearly a fourth of their value in a single day.
At the forefront of the market fall have been banking and financial stocks, which enjoy high weighting in the benchmark indices. The Bank Nifty index is down nearly 50 per cent this year.
If the markets fall another 2 per cent, India’s market cap will slip below Rs 100 trillion. India had first crossed this milestone in November 2014 in the aftermath of the BJP sweeping victory in the general elections. From the peak in January, India’s market cap has seen an erosion of almost Rs 60 trillion.
So far in March, the Sensex and the Nifty are down 32 per cent, making India the worst performing major market in the world. From their record highs on January 17, the indices are down nearly 40 per cent.
In the history of the domestic capital markets, the markets had hit lower circuits only twice in 2004 (after the general election results) and in January 2008 (amid the global financial crisis). This month alone, there have been two lower circuits.
Overall, there were nearly 10 declining stocks for every one advancing on the BSE were shares of 2,400 companies got traded on Monday. Of this, over 650 hit the lower trading limit.