Nifty ends above 6500 after tough tussle; MCX slumps 4%

03:40 pm Market closing: It was a tough tussle for the bulls on Dalal Street, but the market managed to end in green. The Nifty closed up 11.10 points at 6504.20 and the Sensex was up 35.19 points at 21809.80. About 1200 shares advanced, 1534 shares declined, and 144 shares were unchanged. Capital goods provided strong support to the indices. BHEL and L&T were up 2.5 percent each. Dr Reddy's Labs, Cipla and Tata Steel were other gainers in the Sensex. Wipro lost 3 percent. Bharti Airtel, Axis Bank and HDFC twins were other laggards in the Sensex. Trouble-prone MCX ended with a loss of 4 percent as its Chairman Pillai resigned and CBI is looking to start preliminary enquiries on the company.

03:30 Divestment: The government is seeking to raise around USD 500 million by selling partial stakes in 10 state-owned companies via an exchange traded fund that will be operated by Goldman Sachs' asset management unit, reports Reuters. The Central Public Sector Enterprises ETF will start accepting subscriptions starting on Tuesday with an aim to raise as much as Rs 3000 crore by March 21. The ETF will target mainly retail investors, although the fund will also be sold to institutional and foreign investors. The ETF is an important part of the government's target to sell stakes in state-owned companies worth Rs 16030 crore by the year ending March so India can meet its revised fiscal deficit target of 4.6 percent of gross domestic product.

03:15 pm Macro outlook: Falling inflation data reflects improvement in the economy, but growth still remains an issue, said former RBI governor Bimal Jalan. Commenting on whether this should act as a cue for the Reserve Bank of India to cut rates, Jalan said: ''I can't comment on what the RBI should or should not do. But I can certainly say that the situation now is much better than what it was say 2 months ago in terms of prices. However, growth is still an issue.'' He said that as a citizen he feels more emphasis should be given on the growth and investment now. The wholesale price index (WPI) inflation for the month of February stood at a nine-month low of 4.68 percent against a CNBC-TV18 poll of 4.9 percent. The food articles inflation stood at 8.12 percent against 8.80 percent on a month-on-moth basis.

03:03 Market check: The market makes a smart recovery supported by gains in capital goods. The Sensex is up 49.63 points at 21824.24, and the Nifty is up 16.05 points at 6509.15. About 1075 shares have advanced, 1577 shares declined, and 144 shares are unchanged. L&T, BHEL, Sun Pharma, Dr Reddy's Labs and Cipla are top gainers in the Sensex. Among the losers are Wipro, Bharti Airtel, Axis Bank, HDFC Bank and HUL.

03:00 pm Interview: S Varadrajan, CMD of Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL) feels that diesel may get totally deregulated over next 12-15 months. ''As we move along and keep passing on the fuel price increases by 50 paise for diesel every month, which we have been doing since early 2013, very clearly the under-recoveries could be around Rs 7-7.5 per litre. So going forward, assuming that the current levels of rupee and crude are maintained, we could, in the next 12-15 months, see diesel in the state of total deregulation,'' he told CNBC-TV18.

02:55pm Financial Technologies, MCX down 4%
After a board meeting, the MCX Stock Exchange (MCX-SX) announced that Financial Technologies (FTIL) and MCX have been re-classified from the category of promoter shareholder to public shareholder. MCX and FTIL have 37.98 percent and 33.86 percent shareholding in MCX-SX while rest of the stake is held by public sector and private sector banks along with financial firms as on December 2013. MCX-SX, which started functioning in 2013 after SEBI notified a recognised stock exchange in December 2012, was set up by FTIL. The board further said GK Pillai has stepped down as chairman of MCX-SX and it elected Thomas Mathew T, former chairman LIC as the chairman of the exchange. It also appointed Ashima Goyal, professor at Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR) as the vice chairperson of the exchange. The board dismissed speculative reports claiming that several board members are likely to put in their resignations.

02:50pm IOC in focus
Sources told CNBC-TV18 that the stake sale in IOC has been concluded. The government raised Rs 5,340 crore. It is learnt that ONGC and Oil India have bought 5 percent stake each in IOC at Rs 220 apiece today. IOC stock lost 1.28 percent to Rs 270.90 on the BSE.

02:40pm Stocks trim losses
India's largest lenders ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and State Bank of India trimmed losses. ICICI cut losses from 2.3 percent to 1.3 percent. Bharti Airtel and Axis Bank reduced losses from 3 percent to 2.4 percent. However, healthcare stocks saw buying interest with the Sun Pharma, Dr Reddy's Labs and Cipla gaining over a percent each. Tata Steel, which was the loser in last four sessions, gained 1 percent today.

02:30pm Market recovers
The market recouped more than half of losses in last hour of trade supported by index heavyweights Reliance Industries, ITC and Infosys that gained over 0.7 percent. The Sensex declined 45.54 points to 21729.07 and the Nifty fell 16.60 points to 6476.50. About 985 shares have advanced, 1615 shares declined, and 150 shares are unchanged.

02:10pm KEC International on buyers' radar
Shares of KEC International, the RPG group-led infrastructure EPC major, rallied over 2 percent as the company has secured orders worth Rs 1,200 crore in its transmission, power systems, railways and cables businesses. In the transmission and power systems businesses, the company has bagged orders worth Rs 590 crore in Afghanistan and Rs 296 crore orders in America, India and Abu Dhabi. It also received Rs 228 crore order from Rail Vikas Nigam in Uttar Pradesh and Rs 86 crore orders for the supply of power and telecom cables.

02:00pm Equity benchmarks continued to see selling pressure on account of fall in global markets and geopolitical tensions. However, the rupee witnessed sharp recovery in afternoon trade from 61.50 a dollar to 61.22. The Sensex lost 168.76 points to 21605.85 and the Nifty fell 50.05 points to 6443.05. About 917 shares have advanced, 1659 shares declined, and 148 shares are unchanged. Divestment secretary said the government would raise Rs 3,000-4,000 crore via SUUTI stake sale in Axis Bank by March-end, reports CNBC-TV18 quoting Reuters. Axis Bank fell more than 3 percent. Top private sector lenders ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank plunged 2 percent each while rival State Bank of India declined 0.7 percent. Housing finance company HDFC slipped over a percent. Shares of Larsen & Toubro, Hindustan Unilever, Maruti Suzuki, Sesa Sterlite, Hindalco Industries and Coal India too fell a percent. However, Sun Pharma and Infosys gained 1 percent and 0.77 percent, respectively. Both shares saw heavy selling in previous session, falling 4.5 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively.

2:00 pm Coal Strike called off: Coal India executives, who were protesting against non-fulfilment of their demands including performance-related pay, have called off their strike after talks with the management. "The strike has been deferred as assurances have been given by the Coal India management on their (employees) issue with regard to performance-related pay referred by the Committee of Secretaries to the Cabinet. So, that is a major progress," CIL Director (HR) R Mohan Das told PTI. Coal Mines Officers Association of India (CMOAI) General Secretary P K Singh said, "We have decided to defer the strike after the assurance for four to five weeks." The CMOAI had earlier called for a three-day strike that began yesterday.

1:50 pm Macro outlook: The Indian economy can grow an annual 5.2 per cent in the quarter to end-March on higher farm output growth, the chairman of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council said, reports Reuters. C Rangarajan also said he expects the economic growth to pick up to 5.5-6 per cent in the fiscal year that begins on April 1. Contracting industrial output and an investment slowdown dragged India's economic growth to a worse-than-expected 4.7 per cent in the three months to December, making it tougher for the economy to hit the government's growth forecast of 4.9 per cent in the fiscal year that ends in March.

1:40 pm Interview: Jindal Steel and Power (JSPL) is targeting an earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and ammortisation (EBITDA) margin of over 30 percent for the next two quarters on the back of its operating efficiency, says group CFO and director K Rajagopal. JSPL recently hiked its product prices by 800-1,000 a tonne for March and is the second hike this calendar year after raising prices by 1,000 a tonne on January 1. Speaking to CNBC-TV18, Rajagopal says the demand is slowly picking up and by next year the capacity will increase by 10 percent. ''We expect that after election economy should move up and lot of activities should take place and that should have a bearing on the price and so, you should be able to absorb the capacity which is coming up,'' he adds. Meanwhile, Rajagopal says funding for the Stemcor acquisition, whenever it comes through, will be through internal accruals and debt.

1:30 pm Black and blue: The Supreme Court dealt a severe blow to the beleaguered pharma major Ranbaxy by issuing a notice based on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) alleging that the company was selling adulterated cholesterol drug in the domestic market. If a ban is imposed on the drug, then Ranbaxy is likely to lose Rs 76 crore revenue, say experts. Reacting to the news, the stock crashed 5 percent in the afternoon trade. This was the first time the pharma company has been penalised domestically. The company is already reeling under US FDA imposed restrictions on all its plants.

1:20 pm Buzzing: Shares of KEC International, the RPG group-led infrastructure EPC major, rallied as much as 4.7 percent intraday as the company has secured orders worth Rs 1,200 crore in its transmission, power systems, railways and cables businesses. In the transmission and power systems businesses, the company has bagged orders worth Rs 590 crore in Afghanistan and Rs 296 crore orders in America, India and Abu Dhabi. It also received Rs 228 crore order from Rail Vikas Nigam in Uttar Pradesh and Rs 86 crore orders for the supply of power and telecom cables.

The market slips on weak global cues. The Sensex is down 170.32 points at 21604.29, and the Nifty is down 53.45 points at 6439.65. About 814 shares have advanced, 1617 shares declined, and 124 shares are unchanged. Globally, Asia is in the red following fresh signs of a slowdown in china and as concerns in Ukraine resurface. Nikkei is the worst hit, down 3 percent. Meanwhile, February WPI eases to 9-month low of 4.68 percent versus a cnbc-tv18 poll of 4.9 percent due to decline in food & fuel inflation. Core inflation comes in at 3.2 percent vs 3 percent. Sources say Thomas Mathew is likely to take over as MCX-SX Chairman as GK Pillai has stepped down. Meanwhile, Fin Min has spoken to SEBI on MCX-SX issue.

12:59pm Tech Mahindra on buyers' radar
Shares of Tech Mahindra jumped as much as 2 percent intraday as Reserve Bank of India has allowed it to increase the foreign investment limit by up to 48 percent from 45 percent earlier. Now the stock is up 0.6 percent. "Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs), through primary market and stock exchanges, can now purchase up to 48 percent (revised from earlier limit of 45 per cent) of the paid up capital of Tech Mahindra under Portfolio Investment Scheme (PIS)," RBI said in a notification.

12:50pm Asian markets weak
Asian shares dropped to a one-month low and the yen pushed higher, as heightened tension in Ukraine ahead of a weekend referendum sent investors scurrying out of riskier assets. European shares were poised to open lower, putting major regional indexes on course for their worst weekly loss since January. Financial spreadbetters expected Britain's FTSE 100 to open as much as 0.3 percent down, Germany's DAX off 0.8 percent at the start and France's CAC 40 to slip as much as 0.6 percent, reports Reuters. Japan's Nikkei lost over 3 percent while Shanghai, Hang Seng, Straits Times, Kospi and Taiwan Weighted declined 0.5-0.8 percent.

12:40pm L&T Finance Holdings falls 6% intraday
Shares of L&T Finance Holdings fell as much as 6.4 percent intraday today, in addition to 7 percent loss in previous session as the promoter is offloading shares through offer for sale (OFS) issue that will be opened for one day today. The promoter Larsen & Toubro, the engineering and construction major, proposed to sell 5.55 crore equity shares or 3.23 percent stake through OFS. In addition to the sale shares, the seller may also sell upto 2,77,52,878 shares (1.6 percent stake) through OFS, the company said in its filing. The company has fixed a floor price for the issue at Rs 70 apiece (that was lower than Thursday's closing price of Rs 79) while the indicative price is Rs 70.91. Credit Suisse Securities (India) Private Limited is the selling member.

12:30pm Ranbaxy under pressure
Shares of Ranbaxy Labs are trading at 5-week low, falling more than 5 percent after Supreme Court has issued notice to Ranbaxy Labs on plea to ban cholesterol drug.

12:20pm Rupee falls
Indian rupee depreciated by 32 paise to 61.49 per dollar in afternoon trade. Pathik Gandotra, Partner at Dron Capital Advisors LLP expects rupee volatility to continue for another one or two quarters.

12:10pm Market Expert
Pathik Gandotra, Partner at Dron Capital Advisors LLP believes investors should use all dips to buy into their preferred stocks or sectors. He says the pre-election rally is not over yet, and that the market is not expensive at all. ''We see 200-300 point upside in Nifty by election-time,'' he told CNBC-TV18 in an interview. Going forward, Gandotra says earnings will be watched more closely than elections. He says stocks with strong earnings will be rewarded by the market. "We think the worst of the earnings cycle is behind us," he told the channel. He expects rupee volatility to continue for another one or two quarters.

12:00pm The market remains under pressure in noon trade on weak global cues. Banks, FMCG and capital goods stocks are weak. The Sensex declined 150.48 points to 21624.13 and the Nifty fell 46.20 points to 6446.90. About 790 shares have advanced, 1509 shares declined, and 107 shares are unchanged. February WPI Inflation fell to 9-month low at 4.68 percent as against 5.05 percent in previous month due to fall in vegetable and fuel prices. Private sector lenders ICICI Bank and Axis Bank plunged over 2 percent followed by HDFC Bank with a 1.5 percent loss while rival State Bank of India lost 0.6 percent. Shares of Larsen & Toubro, HDFC, BHEL, Mahindra & Mahindra, Hindustan Unilever and Hindalco Industries declined 1-1.5 percent. Bharti Airtel dropped 2.5 percent. The telecom operator on Thursday announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary Bharti Airtel International (Netherlands) BV) has successfully priced CHF 350 million 3 percent guaranteed senior notes due March 31, 2020. However, Dr Reddy's Labs topped the buying list, rising 1.5 percent. Infosys, Sun Pharma, Bajaj Auto, GAIL, Hero Motocorp and Cipla gained over 0.5 percent.

11:50 am Stock in news: Reserve Bank has allowed software firm Tech Mahindra to increase the foreign investment limit by up to 48 per cent from 45 percent earlier. "...Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs), through primary market and stock exchanges, can now purchase up to 48 percent (revised from earlier limit of 45 per cent) of the paid up capital of Tech Mahindra under Portfolio Investment Scheme (PIS)," RBI said in notification.

11:40 am Asian economy: JP Morgan slashed China's first quarter 2015 GDP growth forecast after the country's domestic spending and industrial output came in worse than expected. The combined industrial production for the month of Januray and February came it at 8.6% year-on-year, while retail spending for the period was up 11.8 percent on year versus an expectation of over 13 percent. The slowdown is lowest since 2009 which is leading to speculation that Chinese central bank would relax monetary policy to support its falling growth. Speaking to CNBC-TV18, JP Morgan's Jehangir Aziz said the China is facing slowdown in all parameters, namely; growth in investment, retail sales and factory output- all slumped to multi-year lows. Some amount of slowdown was built in due to tight monetary condition, but there was an expectation that exports will show signs of a pick-up.

11:30 am Market outlook: Pathik Gandotra, Partner at Dron Capital Advisors LLP believes investors should use all dips to buy into their preferred stocks or sectors. He says the pre-election rally is not over yet, and that the market is not expensive at all. ''We see 200-300 point upside in Nifty by election-time,'' he told CNBC-TV18 in an interview. Going forward, Gandotra says earnings will be watched more closely than elections. He says stocks with strong earnings will be rewarded by the market. "We think the worst of the earnings cycle is behind us," he told the channel. He expects rupee volatility to continue for another one or two quarters. He advises investors to allocate 20 percent of their assets to high quality midcaps. He finds realty stocks attractive with a 3 year timeframe. ''We expect to see a lot of intra-year volatility in 2014,'' he says.

11:20 am  Buzzing: Investors are once again buying shares of AstraZeneca, taking it up 9 percent intraday on Friday. The stock is buzzing ahead of another board meeting which will consider its voluntary delisting proposal. ''The voluntary delisting proposal from AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals AB, Sweden in terms of their letter dated March 01, 2014 will be considered at the meeting of the Board of Directors of the Company to be held on March 15, 2014,'' it said in a statement to the BSE. Earlier its delisting proposal raised eyebrows due to which it had decided to seek additional information from the promoter and the plan was deferred.

Profit booking seems to seep in the market as it gears to end for a long weekend. The Sensex is down 151.59 points at 21623.02, and the Nifty is down 52.35 points or at 6440.75. About 705 shares have advanced, 1346 shares declined, and 110 shares are unchanged. Asian markets trade with substantial losses reacting to the weak close in the US with geopolitical tensions and concerns from China dominating sentiment. Japanese markets are on track to record their worst week since august. Currencies saw the euro weaken sharply and prices of German government debt rising after comments by ECB President Mario Draghi raised the possibility of easing measures to stave off inflation in the euro zone. The yen and Swiss franc are seeing safe haven buying. Gold continues to gain trading at six-month high on safe haven buying. Metals saw iron ore prices bounce back from 17-month low with a 3.8 percent gain. Reports indicate that the Russian military has become noticeably active in Ukraine region with the military drills starting on Thursday while Barack Obama pledging to stand with Ukraine and Angela Merkel saying the referendum is unconstitutional.

10:59am CLSA Report
CLSA has downgraded HPCL and IOC to sell with target price of Rs 250 apiece and Rs 260 apiece. The brokerage house in its report further said that midcaps would outperform large caps if earnings recovery better. "Recent rerating brought midcap valuations close to averages," the report said. CLSA's preferred stocks are PFC, Ashok Leyland, Prestige Estates, Shree Cements, Ipca Labs, Marico and Petronet LNG. The brokerage firm is bullish on Tata Power and IndusInd Bank.

10:50am Coal India executives call off strike
Coal India (CIL) executives have called off their three-day strike to protest against non- fulfillment of their demands including performance-related pay after talks with the PSU major's management.  The strike was expected to have an estimated impact in production and dispatches by 4 million tonne of coal at a time when the miner is facing a shortfall in excess of 17 million tonne from its target for 2013-14. The demand for performance-related pay has been referred to the Cabinet by the Committee of Secretaries.

10:40am Bharti Airtel slips over 2%
Bharti Airtel on Thursday announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary Bharti Airtel International (Netherlands) BV) has successfully priced CHF 350 million 3 percent guaranteed senior notes due March 31, 2020. "The notes will be fully and unconditionally guaranteed by Bharti Airtel. Bharti will apply the net proceeds to refinance its existing debt," the company said in its filing. Bharti also said the notes, which carry an investment grade rating from Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Fitch, received considerable demand across high quality institutional investors and Swiss private banks. ''It is extremely heartening to have a third listing of our credit in just one year with yet another largest debut issuance from India. With this issuance, Bharti now has the largest debut USD, EURO and CHF denominated bond issuances by an Indian issuer ever," Harjeet Kohli, Group Treasurer, Bharti Airtel said.

10:30am Tata Power in focus
Rating agency Standard & Poor's has revised Tata Power's outlook to positive from negative on the back of favourable regulatory development. It sees Tata Power addressing Mundra project loan pact breach in one-year. The stock is down 0.7 percent after rising as much as 2 percent in early trade on S&P report.

10:20am CBI registers preliminary enquiry against ex-chairman SEBI
The Central Bureau of Investigation, which has launched a probe into the grant of license to the bourse five years ago, has registered a preliminary enquiry against former Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) chairman CB Bhave and whole-time member KM Abraham. According to the CBI, the PE was registered on issues of alleged irregularities in granting sanction to the MCX-SX by Sebi in 2008 and renewing the recognition in 2009 and 2010.

10:10am Market Expert
In an interview to CNBC-TV18 Deven Choksey of KR Choksey Shares and Securities says market currently seems to be shedding some gains on back of profit booking but one can still find opportunities to invest into. The market seems to be looking out at election outcome for further upside says Choksey in an interview to CNBC-TV18.

10:10am Market Expert In an interview to CNBC-TV18 Deven Choksey of KR Choksey Shares and Securities says market currently seems to be shedding some gains on back of profit booking but one can still find opportunities to invest into. The market seems to be looking out at election outcome for further upside says Choksey in an interview to CNBC-TV18. According to him institutional investors seem to be shifting part of their holding from IT, Pharma into high beta names including cyclicals . He expects Nifty to trade between 6300 and 6550-6600. ''In this 30-45, in every dip you would see larger amount of accumulation, large position building and good amount of participation coming from investors at large,'' says Choksey.

10:00am Equity benchmarks continued to reel under selling pressure with the Nifty breaking 6450 level weighed down by banks, capital goods and FMCG stocks. The fall is led by nervousness in global peers due to Ukraine concerns and China growth worries. The Sensex fell 102.37 points to 21672.24 and the Nifty declined 41.05 points to 6452.05. About 687 shares have advanced, 1064 shares declined, and 91 shares are unchanged. Telecom operator Bharti Airtel and private sector lender Axis Bank plunged over 2 percent followed by ICICI Bank, Larsen & Toubro, Sesa Sterlite and BHEL with 1.4-1.8 percent loss. Shares of HDFC Bank, Reliance Industries, HDFC, TCS, ITC, HUL and M&M slipped 0.3-0.8 percent. Sun Pharma trimmed losses to 0.4 percent from 3 percent in early trade. However, Dr Reddy's Labs and GAIL bucked the trend, rising over a percent. Infosys saw some short covering, rising 0.6 percent after a 8.5-percent loss in previous session on revenue growth concerns.

10:00 am House view: CLSA has downgraded HPCL and IOC to sell with a target price of Rs 250 and Rs 260 respectively. The brokerage is bullish on Tata Power and IndusInd Bank. It is betting on midcaps and believes midcaps will outperform large caps if earnings recoveries are better. Among the midcaps, it prefers PFC, Ashok Leyland, Prestige Estates, Shree Cements, Ipca Labs, Marico and Petronet LNG.

9:50 am Asian Markets check: Asian shares dropped to a one-month low and the yen pushed higher on Friday, as heightened tension in Ukraine ahead of a weekend referendum drove investors out of riskier assets. Solid U.S. retail sales and employment data also reinforced expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will stick to its plan of gradually withdrawing its asset-buying stimulus, while Thursday's disappointing Chinese economic data continued to add to the gloom. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 1.1 percent, touching its lowest level since mid-February and on track for a weekly loss of more than 2 percent. Japan's Nikkei stock average skidded 2.7 percent to a one-month low, on track for a weekly loss of more than 5 percent, as the currency soared.

9:40 am Big Fall: Shares of Multi-Commodity Exchange plunged over 17 percent in early trade on Friday as it is sinking into murkier water. The Central Bureau of Investigation has registered a preliminary enquiry (PE) against former Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) chairman CB Bhave and whole-time member KM Abraham. Jignesh Shah-founded FTIL and MCX, among others are also under CBI scanner. According to the CBI, the PE was registered on issues of alleged irregularities in granting sanction to the MCX-SX by Sebi in 2008 and renewing the recognition in 2009 and 2010. Meanwhile, CBI also carried out searches at offices of National Spot Exchange. CNBC-TV18's sources said that the board members of the exchange feel that CBI enquiry would jeopardise the prospects of MCX-SX and make it difficult to get any strategic investors. The original promoters of MCX-SX have been issued show-cause notices by regulator Sebi after another regulator FMC ruled they were not "fit and proper" to run any exchange in the wake of NSEL fallout.

9:30 am Poll: After easing retail inflation, expectations are that wholesale inflation too could soften further from 8 month lows touched to January to below 5 percent. A CNBC-TV18 poll of economist has pegged the figure at 4.9 percent versus 5.05 percent (MoM). The range is all the way from 4.8-5.0 percent. The WPI inflation is likely to ease on food inflation pulling down the entire headline index. The food inflation in the previous month for WPI fell to 8.8 percent versus 13.68 percent-an eight-month low. Remember, the CPI inflation for February 2014 also indicated that the food inflation dipped to 8.5 percent versus 9.9 percent indicating that the WPI inflation will see the same impact.

The market has opened on a weak note with the Nifty struggling below the 6500-level. The Nifty is down 45.85 points at 6447.25. The Sensex is down 160.50 points at 21614.11. About 109 shares have advanced, 267 shares declined, and 15 shares are unchanged. The Indian rupee opened lower by 24 paise at 61.41 per dollar on Friday as against previous day's closing value of 61.17 a dollar.

Pramit Brahmbhatt of Alpari India expects the rupee to trade weak following Asian shares slipping to a 3-week low as tension over Ukraine ahead of a weekend referendum forced investors to get rid of riskier assets. He feels equities are also expected to open low which will further weaken the rupee to open near 61.50/USD levels in futures. According to him, the trading range for the spot dollar-rupee pair is expected to be between 60.50-61.80/USD. Safe haven currencies like the Swiss Franc and yen got off to a flying start this morning, having surged overnight as tensions in Ukraine flared up and worries about the health of the Chinese economy continued to fester.

The euro was further undermined by comments from European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, who said the strength of the currency was increasingly relevant to the bank's assessment of price stability as it was having a negative impact on inflation. US markets ended weak with about 1.5 percent in cut with the Dow dropping over 200 points, as worries mounted about China's economy and escalating tensions in Ukraine. The New York Times broke a story that Russian forces were conducting new military operations near the Ukrainian border. That news probably triggered the hard downside move in the averages. The CBOE VIX gained 12 percent to 16 percent.

There's good news from the jobs sector. Jobless claims for the week ended March 8 fell by 9,000. That is a three month low and tops estimates by a considerable margin as well. The four-week moving average of claims also dipped slightly showing signs of further improvement in the labor market. Retail sales for February rose 0.3 percent ending two months of declines. In commodities, crude steadied above USD 98 a barrel, but was headed for its second-biggest weekly fall this year after a steep rise in US oil stockpiles and Washington's first test sale of crude from its emergency reserve since 1990. From precious metals space, gold rose to fresh six-month highs on Friday and was headed for its best weekly gain in four weeks, buoyed by mounting tensions between Russia and the west over Ukraine, and worries over an economic slowdown in china. The metal has gained nearly 3 percent this week, marking its sixth straight weekly gain.

Copper fell another 1.5 percent Thursday. Since copper is used for collateral for Chinese bank loans, the concern is that more of the metal could flood the market if there are further defaults. Closer to home, Asian stocks plunged on China data and Ukraine fears. Weaker-than-expected February retail sales and industrial output figures fueling worries about the health of China's economy.