After a gap-up start to the day, Indian markets trimmed most of the gains to end flat as investors were divided between a host of positive and negative cues. While strong Q4 earnings performance and loose monetary policy lent support to the sentiment, a record jump in Covid cases in the country kept investors on tenterhooks.
Besides, economic indicators have also started pointing to the impact arising from lockdown-like restrictions. The latest is an analysis by the economists at SBI that suggests the business activity index has fallen below the level before the coronavirus pandemic, affected by lockdowns and restrictions in cities and states to slow down the outbreak.
The BSE barometer Sensex gyrated 840 points to end the day at 49,767 up 32 points. The index had surpassed 50,000 mark in intra-day session and touched day's high at 50,375. Reliance Industries, Bajaj twins and Axis Bank were among the top contributors. While Nifty50 settled 30 points higher at 14,895 on expiry day.
In the 30-pack Sensex, 12 stocks closed higher and 18 in the red. Bajaj Auto post its March quarter results emerged the top index loser and closed 1.78% lower. The two-wheeler maker reported a 1.6 per cent year-on-year (YoY) growth in standalone net profit at Rs 1,332.07 crore for quarter under review. On a quarterly basis, the profit tumbled 14.4 per cent.
Other Sensex losers included HDFC, HCL Tech, L&T and SBI. Meanwhile, Bajaj Finserv, Bajaj Finance, Axis Bank, RIL and IndusInd Bank were among the top gainers, up between 1-7%.
The broader markets were mixed as Nifty Midcap index declined 0.11% while Nifty Smallcap index added 0.65%.
In the sectoral space, Nifty Metal index continued to shine and was the best performer with a gain of 4.53%. Meanwhile, Nifty PSU Bank index and Nifty Auto index were the worst performers, down 1% each.
In stock specific action, shares of Hindustan Unilever ended flat at Rs 2,409.05 after the March quarter results. The FMCG major's Q4 standalone profit surged 41% YoY to Rs 2,143 crore.
RIL rose 1.36 per cent after a report suggested that the Mukesh Ambani controlled company has held talks with Saudi Aramco on a cash and share deal for sale of a 20 per cent stake in its oil refining and petrochemical arm.
Shares of UTI Asset Management Company (AMC) hit fresh 52-week high of Rs 641.25 on the BSE after the company reported a return to profit at Rs 133.62 crore during the quarter ended March 2021. The scrip settled the day 2.78 per cent higher at Rs 625.85.
KPIT Technologies after surging 8% in intraday trade, pared most gains and settled only 0.72% up at Rs 195.65. The stock had gained during the day on better-than-expected March quarter results.
Meanwhile, in other news.
Demand for gold in India in the January – March 2021 quarter surged 37 per cent to 140 tonne as compared to the previous corresponding period, said World Gold Council (WGC). Opening up of the economy post the lockdown coupled with the vaccination drive drove the demand, WGC said.
The demand in India during the March 2021 quarter is in stark contrast to the demand globally, which dropped 23 per cent YoY to 815.7 tonne, mainly driven by outflows of gold-backed exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and low central bank buying.
Now, an update on the global markets.
Global shares extended gains after the Federal Reserve said it was too early to consider rolling back emergency support for the economy, and US President Joe Biden proposed a $1.8 trillion stimulus package.
The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 49 countries, was 0.2% higher, on course for its best month since November.
The pan-European STOXX 600 opened 0.4% firmer, while E-mini futures for the S&P 500 index rose 0.4% and Nasdaq futures advanced 0.6%, indicating positive start for Wall Street later today.