Nifty consolidates around 6500; Axis Bank up 3%, ONGC drags

The market saw consolidation again on Friday with the both equity benchmarks seeing a flat close. It was opened with a gap up of more than 100 points on the Sensex following positive global cues, but that was short lived.

Investors were cautious ahead of March series expiry next week and RBI policy on April 1. The Sensex rose 13.66 points to close at 21753.75 while the Nifty advanced 10.10 points to 6493.20 after hovering around the 6500 level throughout the session. In fact, the market remained in a consolidation phase for the second consecutive week after hitting record highs earlier, but foreign institutional investors have not stopped pumping money into India.

They have bought more than Rs 13,000 crore worth of shares since February 12, out of which Rs 3,100 crore worth of buying took place in the current week itself (till March 20). Experts believe the FII flows may remain strong going ahead and the market may see 6700-6800 levels on the Nifty as the general elections outcome (on May 16) comes closer. The special session for live trading will take place on Saturday for two hours. Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan today said the central bank is yet to move to inflation targeting and is still in discussions with the government on the same. He also reiterated his preference for targeting retail price inflation.

The rupee appreciated by 45 paise to close at 60.89 against the US dollar. Axis Bank was the most active stock on bourses after the government (through SUUTI) sold 9 percent or 4.22 crore shares of the bank via multiple block deals in early trade. The stock fell more than 3 percent in early trade but recouped in last couple of hours of trade. It gained 2.7 percent at close. Tata group stocks saw huge buying interest with the Tata Steel gaining 3.6 percent.

Tata Motors and Tata Power climbed over 2 percent while TCS was up 0.8 percent. Wipro rallied over 3 percent but Infosys closed flat. The latter on Thursday said its senior VP Chandrashekar Kakal would be resigned from company w.e.f April 18. Shares of State Bank of India, Hindalco Industries, BHEL, Coal India and Sesa Sterlite were up 1-3 percent. However, ONGC, Reliance Industries, Sun Pharma, Bharti Airtel, Hero Motocorp and NTPC fell 1-3 percent.

03:50 Market closing
After a rangebound day, the market ended on a flat note. The Sensex was up 13.66 points  at 21753.75, and the Nifty gained 10.10 points at 6493.20.  About 1575 shares  advanced, 1231 shares declined, and 144 shares were unchanged. Steel stocks remained stars of the day with Tata Steel and Hindalco gaining 3-4 percent each. Wipro, Axis Bank and Tata Power are other gainers in the Sensex. Oil and gas stocks were under heavy selling pressure. Reliance, ONGC, Hero Motocorp, Sun Pharma and NTPC were laggards of the day.

03:40 pm Warning bell
Elections in India are unlikely to kick-start investment cycle in a short period of time as against popular perception that a new government led by BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi could immediately revive the markets and economy, says a Credit Suisse report. "We disagree with the consensus view that elections can revive the investment cycle.

03:30 pm Market outlook
There is every possibility of Nifty scaling the highs of 7000 on back of improving macros but the current rally seems to be purely led by cyclicals said Anup Maheshwari Executive Vice President & Head of equities DSP Blackrock Investment Managers in an interview to CNBC-TV18. However, cyclicals are likely to see some dip post the gains, he said. According to him for the market to see a structural bull market over the next 3-5 years, it is very important that interest rates come down but as of now there are no signs of rate cuts coming through said Maheshwari. Stock specific the house is positive on private banks and pharma sector and commercial vehicle segment with a long-term horizon, he said. According to him there is likelihood that the CV segment will see a turnaround.

03:20 pm Export data
Global coffee exports fell by 8.4 percent to 8.7 million bags in January this year due to sluggish shipments from Vietnam and Indonesia, according to the International Coffee Organisation (ICO). Worldwide coffee exports stood at 9.44 million bags in the same period last year. One bag contains 60 kg of coffee. "Robusta exports were 17.2 per cent lower as exports from Vietnam and Indonesia have been limited, despite the large crop expected this year," ICO said in its report. Shipments from Vietnam, the world's second biggest exporter, fell by 29 per cent to 1.72 million bags in January this year, from 2.41 million bags in the year-ago period.

03:10 pm Gold import
Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma has favoured a review of curbs on gold import norms saying the restrictions are leading to smuggling. "I feel for a review. I am not in favour of making it so difficult that it leads to increase in smuggling," Sharma told PTI. In order to check rising Current Account Deficit (CAD), the government raised import duties and the RBI imposed curbs on import of the metal and also laid down various pre-conditions for inward shipments of the precious metal. He said there is a need to have a balanced approach on the matter.

03:00 pm Reponse to ETF
CPSE Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) has so far garnered cumulative bids of over Rs 3,150 crore, buoyed by strong demand from foreign institutional investors. The final subscriptions, however, will go up as the issue will close later in the day. According to sources, the New Fund Offer (NFO) has been fully subscribed with foreign institutional investors (FIIs) putting in Rs 750 crore alone so far on the fourth day of offer. The strong demand has taken the cumulative bids to over Rs 3,150 crore so far on the last day of offer today. The government had targeted to garner Rs 3,000 crore from the ETF. As many as seven anchor investors, including State Bank of India and insurance companies, have already put in Rs 835 crore into the NFO.

02:50pm Info Edge talks to CNBC-TV18
The Naukri job index has seen a 14 to 15 percent growth in January-February, from a bottom of 2 percent in June last year. Ambaresh Raghuvanshi, CFO, Info Edge says the job index is marginally higher, but it is not a solid uptrend. The index was at 1500 in February this year versus 1000 during July 2008. It went to an all-time low of 670 in June 2009 which was a terrible time globally and in India too in terms of market sentiment, hiring activity and business confidence level, he adds. He says in general the sentiment is better as most people are expecting a better macro environment in the second half of this year or after May-June – in terms of regulatory clarity and hope of certain government measures coming into force.

02:40pm Claris Life on buyers' radar
Shares of Claris Lifesciences rallied 2 percent after the the company received approval from shareholders for buyback of up to 92.5 lakh shares (representing 15 percent of the paid up capital) at Rs 250 apiece. The healthcare company has fixed April 02 as the record date for purpose of determining entitlement and names of equity shareholders, to whom the letter of offer and tender form will be sent and who are eligible to participate in the buy back offer.

02:30pm IOB to sell bad loans to ARCs
Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) will be selling bad loans of 53 accounts worth Rs 1,800 crore to asset reconstruction companies in FY14, said its Chairman M Narendra, who is seen among the frontrunners for KC Chakraborty's post as the RBI deputy governor.  The Asset Reconstruction Company of India (ARCIL) in an interview to CNBC-TV18 on Thursday said that around Rs 42,000 crore loans have already been offered for sale by the banks this fiscal, up 4 times than last financial year. Narendra said the banks are now encouraged to sell loans to asset reconstruction companies. ''Even the latest circular from the RBI also states that we should recognise difficult or stressed accounts at the earliest,'' he added.

02:15pm FII View
There is every possibility of Nifty scaling the highs of 7000 on back of improving macros but the current rally seems to be purely led by cyclicals said Anup Maheshwari Executive Vice President & Head of equities DSP Blackrock Investment Managers in an interview to CNBC-TV18. According to him for the market to see a structural bull market over the next 3-5 years, it is very important that interest rates come down but as of now there are no signs of rate cuts coming through said Maheshwari.

02:00pm Equity benchmarks are consistently moving in a tight range from early trade Friday with the Nifty hovering around the 6500-mark amid strong inflow of foreign money. Foreign institutional investors have bought more than Rs 13,000 crore worth of shares since February 12 and out of which, Rs 3,100 crore of buying has taken place in the current week itself. The Sensex advanced 19.16 points to 21759.25 and the Nifty rose 12.80 points to 6495.90. About 1439 shares have advanced, 1181 shares declined, and 153 shares are unchanged. Tata Steel is the biggest gainer, rising over 4 percent followed by Hindalco Industries, Sesa Sterlite and Wipro with 2-3 percent. Axis Bank rebounded with nearly 3 percent gains after falling as much as 3 percent in early trade. The government has received Rs 5,600 crore by selling 9 percent stake in the bank through multiple block deals. Tata Motors and GAIL rallied nearly 2 percent while State Bank of India, BHEL, Coal India and Tata Power climbed over a percent. However, shares of Reliance Industries, ONGC, Hero Motocorp and Sun Pharma declined 1-1.7 percent.

2:00 pm What to do with Infosys?
After the recent elevation of BG Srinivas and UB Pravin Rao, Chandrashekar Kakal's exit was always on the cards, says Basu Banerjee, IT Analyst, Quant Broking. IT-major Infosys has seen its ninth high profile exit in recent times as Kakal, the senior vice president and member of Infosys' executive council, resigned from the company with effect from April 18. Before Srinivas and Rao were elevated as presidents of the company, there were talks about Kakal being one of the prospective contenders for the post of the chief executive officer. Banerjee expects the Infosys transition to continue well into FY15. However, he says India's second largest software exporter is a buying opertunity at current lower levels. ''I will recommend buying Infosys on every dip,'' he told CNBC-TV18 in an interview.

1:50 pm Stock in news: Shares of Canara Bank jumped 2 percent intraday on Friday as it is planning to raise additional capital of Rs 1000 crore through issue of BASEL-III complaint Tier-II bonds (Series-II). ''The bank has received reaffirmation of rating AAA/ stable from CRISIL and confirmation of rating ICRA AAA hybrid with stable outlook from ICRA for the proposed issue of the said Bonds,'' it said in statement. In January, the bank had raised Rs 1,500 from bonds to enhance capital base. Besides, it also got capital infusion of Rs 500 crore from the government in FY14. The fund pumping plan is part of government's Rs 14,000 crore overall capital infusion plan for the public sector banks (PSBs).

1:40 pm Macro outlook: India has gone from being the founding member of the ''fragile five'' to the darling of emerging markets, says Sajjid Chinoy of JPMorgan. In keeping with pre-election trends in EMs, India's stock markets are galloping ahead. Foreign investors are betting big on a victory for the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) led by Narendra Modi in the 2014 general elections that are to begin on April 7 and finish with counting on May 16. However, Chinoy believes investors should not let sentiment get the better of them. ''Macro stability has returned but there are real challenges on growth-inflation dynamics still in India. So, even if we get an outcome on May 16 that markets would like, the translation from that political outcome to economic outcome could be far more lagged and incomplete than markets are assuming,'' he told CNBC-TV18.

1:30 pm Market outlook: With India's debt inflows indicating confidence, Sashi Krishnan, CIO, Birla Sun Life Insurance anticipates FII flows to continue into Indian market. Even though there has been a shift from IT and pharma to cyclicals in recent times, Krishnan remains overweight on the sector. He is underweight on metals, utilities and capital goods space. With the changes in the regulations in the domestic insurance space, the products will become a lot more attractive for retail investors, says Krishnan in an interview with CNBC-TV18. Insurance turning into net buyer likely to become a trend continuing till next year, adds Krishnan. He also believes there should be buoyancy in insurance collections.

1:20 pm Buzzing: Shares of Apollo Hospitals Enterprises advanced as much as 2 percent intraday. Brokerage house Credit Suisse has an outperform rating on the stock with a target price of Rs 1085, citing positive on strong growth visibility and proven execution. The brokerage house said expansion upside in the stock should be visible by FY17-18. "We will sustain 18 percent 5-year EBITDA CAGR," it added. Meanwhile, Edelweiss has a buy rating on the stock and revised target price at Rs 1060 from Rs 985 earlier.

The market continues to trade in the green. The Sensex is up 38.16 points at 21778.25, and the Nifty is up 18.60 points at 6501.70. About 1401 shares have advanced, 1112 shares declined, and 134 shares are unchanged. Metal stocks are shining with Tata Steel, Sesa Sterlite and Hindalco gaining 3-4 percent. Wipro and Axis Bank are other gainers in the Sensex. Oil and gas stocks continue to drag. Reliance, ONGC, Sun Pharma, NTPC and Hero Motocorp are top losers in the Sensex. Axis Bank gains as government sells 4.2 crore shares or 9 percent equity at an average price of Rs 1,323 per share. It has raised around Rs 5,557 crore via stake sale. The stock is supported as its weightage will increase in FTSE rebalancing effective April 24 and also on the nifty after block deal. RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan says that the central bank has not yet accepted inflation targeting. He adds that RBI is exploring Urjit Patel recommendations and will discuss with government about inflation targets and the monetary policy committee.

12:55pm Apollo Hospitals in focus
Credit Suisse has an outperform rating on Apollo Hospitals Enterprises with a target price of Rs 1085, citing positive on strong growth visibility and proven execution. The brokerage house said expansion upside in the stock should be visible by FY17-18. "We will sustain 18 percent 5-year EBITDA CAGR," it added. Meanwhile, Edelweiss has a buy rating on the stock and revised target price at Rs 1060 from Rs 985 earlier. The stock climbed 1.5 percent to Rs 887.95 on the BSE.

12:45pm Claris Life on buyers' radar
Claris Life shares gained over 1.5 percent as the company received shareholders' approval to buy back up to 92.5 lakh shares at Rs 250 apiece.

12:35pm CPSE ETF closes today
CPSE ETF received Over Rs 3,000 crore in subscription and foreign institutional investors put in Rs 750 crore worth of bids, reports CNBC-TV18 quoting sources. The government launched Central Public Sector Enterprise (CPSE) Exchange Traded Fund specifically made of PSU stocks, which will close today. The CPSE ETF basket consist of shares of 10 PSUs and provides an opportunity for investors to become part-owners of Oil & Natural Gas Corp, GAIL India, Coal India, Indian Oil, Oil India, Power Finance Corp, Rural Electrification Corp, Container Corp, Engineers India and Bharat Electronics. The fund is managed by Goldman Sachs and will be listed on the stock exchanges in the form of an ETF. The ETF is an open-ended fund and the units have a face value of Rs 10 each.

12:20pm RBI governor on inflation
Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan said the central bank has not yet moved to an inflation target, and was still exploring the suggestions on the subject drafted by a panel with the government. A panel headed by Reserve Bank of India deputy governor Urjit Patel recommended in January moving to an inflation target, with an aim to eventually bring down consumer-price based inflation to 4 percent with a 2 percent band on either side. "We haven't moved to inflation targeting as yet," Rajan said at an event in Mumbai, reports Reuters.

12:10pm Birla Sun Life sees healthy FII flows
With India's debt inflows indicating confidence, Sashi Krishnan, CIO, Birla Sun Life Insurance anticipates FII flows to continue into Indian market. Even though there has been a shift from IT and pharma to cyclicals in recent times, Krishnan remains overweight on the sector. He is underweight on metals, utilities and capital goods space. Insurance turning into net buyer likely to become a trend continuing till next year, adds Krishnan. Foreign institutional investors have been net buyers in India since February 12. They have bought more than Rs 13,500 crore since that day (till March 20).

12:00pm The market continued to consolidate at around the 6500 level after hitting record highs. The Sensex climbed 49.77 points to 21789.86 and the Nifty rose 21.25 points to 6504.35. Advancing shares outnumbered declining ones by a ratio of 1370 to 961 on the BSE. Metals are stars today with the BSE Metal Index rising over 2 percent. Aluminium major Hindalco Industries climbed over 3 percent followed by Tata Steel and Sesa Sterlite with 2.7 percent. Software services provider Wipro topped the buying list, rising over 4 percent while rival TCS gained 1 percent. India's largest lender State Bank of India gained 1.7 percent while rival HDFC Bank and Axis Bank are marginally higher. However, state-run oil & gas major ONGC fell 1.6 percent followed by Reliance Industries, Sun Pharma and NTPC with 1 percent. Cigarette major ITC and engineering & construction major Larsen & Toubro slipped 0.6 percent each.

12:00 pm Interview: The area of corporate governance remains an issue in India and more work needs to be done to improve standards, Upendra Kumar Sinha, chairman of Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) said Friday. ''Shareholders are increasingly becoming more active and corporate authority is being challenged,'' he said, adding that public authorities, including Sebi, were facing ''comprehensive evaluation''. ''Sebi is trying to follow the primary legal mandate of investor protection. Our enforcement actions are due to close scrutiny and feedback from stakeholders,'' Sinha said, and said more work was required in the field of surveillance.

11:50 am Gas price: India's plan to double gas prices from April threatens to hit government efforts to cut its fiscal deficit, as higher production costs for the country's most widely used fertiliser force authorities to raise either farm or food subsidies, reports Reuters. India last year approved a hefty rise in gas prices to around USD 8.40 per million British thermal units in a bid to boost returns for local producers, spur investment in the industry and ease acute power shortages. Gas accounts for nearly 80 percent of the production cost of urea, a nitrogenous fertiliser that consumes more than half of the USD 11 billion (Rs 67,100 crore at 1 dollar=61 rupee) India spends each year subsidising farmers for selling fertilisers at below the cost of production.

11:40 am US markets: Fitch Ratings affirmed the United States' credit ratings at "AAA" with a stable outlook, removing the distant danger that it might downgrade the world's largest economy. The action resolves the negative watch that Fitch had placed on the United States back in October, when political wrangling over the debt ceiling had raised the risk of default. "Fitch's sensitivity analysis does not currently anticipate developments with a material likelihood, individually or collectively, of leading to a rating downgrade," it said in a statement. The US was embarrassed and world financial markets were roiled in 2011 when Standard & Poor's downgraded the country's rating to "AA plus". S&P currently has it on a stable outlook.

11:30 am FII view:  Viktor Shvets of Macquarie feels that emerging market performance could dampen in the next few months because they will have to deal with issues like high US dollar, higher interest rates, and lower global demand because there could be monetary policy tightening in the US. However countries like India and Indonesia can be saved from the impact of interest rate hikes and tightening liquidity provided structural reforms take place. In case of absence of structural reforms Indian market could quickly go back to the levels seen in July-August 2013, says Shvets. Moreover, developed markets too will have to face the impact of lower demand, high rates, tightening of monetary and fiscal policies going forward.

11:20 am Steaming hot: Shares of Tata Global Beverage jumped over 3 percent intraday on Friday as its joint venture company, Starbucks is bullish on India after registering a record growth. The Seattle-based iconic American coffee chain said India is the fastest growing market in its history. It grew to 40 stores in 17 months in India, with first outlet launch in Mumbai in October 2012. Tata Starbucks currently has presence in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune and Bangalore and has its coffee plantations in the Coorg area of Karnataka. Starbucks globally operates over 20,000 stores across 64 countries, serving over 70 million customers per week.

The market is steady with the Nifty marginally hold on to 6500. The Nifty is up 18.40 points at 6501.50 while the Sensex is up 48.21 points at 21788.30. About 1340 shares have advanced, 866 shares declined, and 129 shares are unchanged. Continuous buying from foreign institutions is also lifting the market. Overseas investors bought shares worth of USD 117.87 million on Thursday, marking their 23rd buying session. The rupee is higher against the dollar. Corporate dollar inflows and foreign bank dollar sales support the rupee. Asian markets rebound after Thursday's fall tracking the better-than-expected US economic data. Japanese stocks remained closed on account of vernal equinox day. Gold and Brent crude trade close to yesterday's levels of USD 1330 per ounce and USD 106 per barrel respectively.

10:55am Ipca Labs on buyers' radar
Shares of Ipca Laboratories gained 5 percent to Rs 869.25. Morgan Stanley initiates coverage on the company with a "buy" rating and a target price of Rs 1,101, calling it its "preferred healthcare mid-cap stock." Morgan Stanley says that IPCA's growing India business, ramp-up in anti-malaria drugs and increased capacity for the US market should drive 23 percent compounded annual growth in earnings until fiscal 2016, versus an average 16.3 percent for other Indian healthcare stocks in its coverage, reports Reuters.

10:45am Sebi chief says corporate governance in India still an issue
Sebi chairman UK Sinha said he admitted that corporate governance in India is still an issue. According to him, over 1,000 small companies have not filed disclosures in time. "SEBI and stock exchanges are working together to enhance compliance. We asked for detailed disclosures," he added.

10:35am Moody's projects BJP victory in general elections
Projecting the ouster of the UPA government after a disappointing second term, research firm Moody's Analytics today said the BJP is likely to form the next government after the general elections. "The current Congress-led government is likely to be ousted after a disappointing second term. The economy is weak and business confidence and investment sit well below where they should be. "The new government, likely to be led by BJP candidate Narendra Modi, offers a chance for better governance," Moody's Analytics said in a report titled Asia-Pacific Outlook: A Slow Start to the Year, reports PTI.

10:20am FII View
Ridham Desai, Morgan Stanley said the market was prepping for a macro trade as evident in low stock correlations and high relative volatility. "The implied volatility levels are low and given relative valuations, the direction of this macro trade could be down," he added. He further said the brokerage house was overweight on technology, telecom, consumer discretionary and energy and remained underweight on banks, industrials, consumer staples and utilities.

10:10am Infosys under pressure
Infosys fell half a percent after the company said senior VP Chandrashekar Kakal would be resigned from company w.e.f April 18. After the recent elevation of BG Srinivas and UB Pravin Rao, Chandrashekar Kakal's exit was always on the cards, says Basu Banerjee, IT Analyst, Quant Broking. Before Srinivas and Rao were elevated as presidents of the company, there were talks about Kakal being one of the prospective contenders for the post of the chief executive officer. Banerjee expects the Infosys transition to continue well into FY15. However, he says India's second largest software exporter is a buying opertunity at current lower levels. ''I will recommend buying Infosys on every dip,'' he told CNBC-TV18 in an interview.

10:00am The market gave up more than half of early gains with the Nifty hovering around 6,500 level. Technology stocks, FMCG and select private banks are under pressure while auto, metals and HDFC twins see buying interest. The Sensex advanced 28.16 points to 21768.25 and the Nifty rose 12.10 points to 6495.20 while the broader markets outperformed benchmarks with the BSE Midcap and Smallcap indices gaining 0.7 percent each. About 1123 shares have advanced, 597 shares declined, and 84 shares are unchanged. Aluminium major Hindalco Industries topped the buying list, rising over 2 percent followed by Tata Motors, State Bank of India, Wipro, Tata Steel and Sesa Sterlite with 1-1.7 percent. Axis Bank trimmed losses to 0.6 percent from 3 percent on buying interest at lower levels. The government has raised Rs 5,603 crore by selling Axis Bank's 9 percent stake at Rs 1,334 a share via multiple block deals. ONGC fell more than a percent while ITC, TCS, Sun Pharma, Reliance Industries, Larsen & Toubro, ICICI Bank and Coal India are marginally lower.

9:50 am OMCs woes: Losses to be borne by Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and other retailers of diesel, kerosene and cooking gas may quadruple to Rs 3,700 crore in this financial year as the finance ministry is unwilling to provide additional subsidy. IOC, Hindustan Petroleum Corp and Bharat Petroleum Crop together are projected to lose about Rs 1,41,000 crore in revenue this financial year on selling diesel, LPG and kerosene at rates set by the government. Of this shortfall, the finance ministry is willing to provide no more than Rs 72,800 crore, sources privy to the matter said.

9:40 am FII view on Modi: Projecting the ouster of the UPA government after a disappointing second term, research firm Moody's Analytics today said the BJP is likely to form the next government after the general elections. "The current Congress-led government is likely to be ousted after a disappointing second term. The economy is weak and business confidence and investment sit well below where they should be. The new government, likely to be led by BJP candidate Narendra Modi, offers a chance for better governance," Moody's Analytics said in a report titled Asia-Pacific Outlook: A Slow Start to the Year.

9:30 am Buzzing: Shares of Axis Bank, India's third largest private sector lender, fell more than 3 percent after the government through SUUTI sold 9 percent stake or 4.22 crore shares of the bank. The Specified Undertaking of Unit Trust of India (SUUTI), which held 20.72 percent stake in the bank, offloaded 9 percent shareholding through multiple block deals which largely took place on the Bombay Stock Exchange. The price band was set at Rs 1,297-1,357 apiece. After this stake sale, SUUTI will have a lock-in period of six-month, which means SUUTI can't sell stake in Axis Bank for six months after today's block deal.

The market has opened on a positive note. The Sensex is up 104.82 points at 21844.91, and the Nifty is up 31.05 points at 6514.15. About 481 shares have advanced, 100 shares declined, and 16 shares are unchanged. Axis Bank falls over 2 percent on the stake sale, while Sun Pharma, Cipla and ITC are top losers in the Sensex. Among the gainers are BHEL, Bharti, GAIL, ONGC and Wipro. The Indian rupee appreciated by 14 paise to 61.20 per dollar in early trade as against previous day's closing value of 61.34 a dollar. The US dollar hovered near a three-week peak against a basket of major currencies in early trade, but could struggle to extend gains as investors awaited more clarity on the Federal Reserve's policy path. Pramit Brahmbhatt of Alpari India said the dollar continued to trade strong on Fed tapering and statement on rise in interest rate. He expects Indian equity market to open weak. According to him, that will depreciate rupee and will force it to trade over 61.50/USD levels. US markets climbed, recovering much of the prior day's losses, as reports on leading indicators and regional manufacturing spurred optimism that the nation's economy would strengthen after the first-quarter weakness, helping offset concerns that interest rates could climb quicker than had been anticipated. In Asia, Japanese markets are shut for 'vernal equinox' day. South Korean shares also recovered after closing at a 6-week low yesterday. Bank of Thailand's monetary policy report is due for release later in the day.