Sensex down 260points, Nifty below 8700 on Rail Budget, expiry

The market fell nearly a percent on Thursday with the Nifty ending the F&O expiry session below 8700-mark. Railway Budget was a dampener as Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu raised freight rates on several commodities.

The 30-share BSE Sensex fell 261.34 points to 28746.65 while the 50-share NSE Nifty slipped 83.40 points to 8683.85 dragged by banks, auto, FMCG and capital goods stocks.

The broader markets too were under pressure as the BSE Midcap and Smallcap indices declined 0.8 percent each. Declining shares outnumbered advancing ones by a ratio of 1758 to 1076 on the BSE.

Union minister Suresh Prabhu presented his maiden Railway Budget today. He announced some populist measures with no direct burden on Aam Aadmi but pinched pockets of corporates by raising freight rate hike.

He announced an investment of Rs 8.5 lakh crore over the next five years. He says operating ratio for FY16 will improve to 88.5 percent against targetted operating ratio of 91.8 percent in FY15.

Railway stocks like Kalindee Rail Nirman and Texmaco Rail declined 2.5-4 percent while Zicom Security Systems gained 5.3 percent on security measures and A2Z Infra Engineering rallied 10 percent on focus on cleanliness.

Cement, coal and metal stocks reeled under pressure after freight rates were hiked by 6.3 percent for coal, 2.7 percent for cement and 3.1 percent for pig iron. Freight rate for grains & pulses, and urea was hiked by 10 percent each.

Deven Choksey of KR Choksey is not overly worried about freight hikes in cement and doesn't see a very material impact of that on cement companies as such.

According to him, the profound measures announced in the Railway Budget with regards to safety, technology development, revenue creation, investments was unlike any other previous Budget.

For the February series, the Sensex and Nifty fell 3 percent as Bank Nifty tanked 10 percent. The CNX Midcap and BSE Smallcap indices were down 2-2.5 percent.

Among stocks, power equipment maker BHEL was the biggest loser on Sensex today, down 3.5 percent. Infosys, ITC, HDFC Bank, Sun Pharma, State Bank of India, Tata Motors, L&T, HUL and Maruti Suzuki were other prominent losers, down 1-3 percent.

Bharti Airtel gained 0.5 percent after the block deal in Bharti Infratel (that fell 1 percent). In large trade today, about 5.5 crore equity shares of Bharti Infratel (2.9 percent equity) changed hands in 3 block deals on BSE, NSE at Rs 350-353.65 apiece.

The telecom tower infrastructure services provider yesterday said Bharti Airtel had decided to sell up to 55 million equity shares (with an upsize option of up to 17.5 million additional equity shares) of its subsidiary company Bharti Infratel today.

NTPC bucked the trend, up 5 percent followed by GAIL with 1.6 percent upside. HDFC and ONGC closed with marginal gains.

Meanwhile, there was a big setback to the government in the upcoming spectrum auctions. Supreme Court today restrained government from finalising auction proceedings and issuing licenses to successful bidders, saying notice inviting tenders has some inconsistencies. SC directed government to submit bidding details and says auctions will go on as planned but subject to court orders.

On the global front, European equities trade flat as the markets weigh concerns over greece's ability to meet its debt repayments commitment to the imf and the european central bank. crude oil sees a decline after yesterday's sharp rally, as us crude stockpiles hit another record high for the seventh straight week.

03:30 pm Market closing: The Rail Budget failed to enthuse investors dragging the market after Minister Suresh Prabhu hiked freight rates. February F&O expiry also added pressure in the market. The Nifty ended F&O expiry at 8683.85, down 83.40 points or 0.9 percent. The Sensex lost 261.34 points or 0.9 percent at 28746.65.

NTPC was up 4 percent while ONGC, GAIL, Reliance and Hero Motocorp are top gainers in the Sensex. Among the losers are Infosys, sun Pharma, Bajaj Auto, Cipla and Hindalco.

03:20pm Europe Update: European equities traded flat as the markets weighed concerns over Greece's ability to meet its debt repayments commitment to the IMF and the European Central Bank. Crude oil saw a decline after yesterday's sharp rally, as US crude stockpiles hit another record high for the seventh straight week.

03:15pm Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu says he has rationalised freight rates in terms of classification. "Railway will look for various options to raise money. A large government organisation has committed Rs 20,000 crore investment in railways and Railway is in talks with World Bank for funding of railways," he adds.

Railway cannot depend on sole source of gross budgetary support, Prabhu says.

03:07pm While addressing press conference post Railway Budget speech, Railway Minister, Suresh Prabhu says Rs 6,581 crore has been approved to remove around 3,500 level-crossings.

"We focussed on safety in the Rail Budget and have increased the quota for senior citizens," he adds.

03:03pm Market Expert: Deven Choksey of  K R Choksey believes the Railway Budget was fundamentally a directional one with focus on working to root out corruption.

According to him, the profound measures announced in the Budget with regards to safety, technology development, revenue creation, investments was unlike any other previous Budget.

He also believes it was transformational and has a systematic plan in place.

Meanwhile, he is not overly worried about freight hikes in cement and don't see a very material impact of that on cement companies as such.

02:55pm Standard Chartered in News: Asia-focused bank Standard Chartered said former JPMorgan investment bank boss Bill Winters will take over as chief executive in June to replace embattled boss Peter Sands.

Standard Chartered said today Chairman John Peace will also leave next year, and named other changes to its board in a massive overhaul in management following a run of problems for the UK bank prompted top shareholders to call for change.

Winters, 53, is one of the most respected bankers in the industry and has wide experience of investment banking and regulatory issues. Standard Chartered shares jumped 3 percent on the news of the appointment.

He will join the Standard Chartered board in May and take over from Sands the following month, and be based in London.

"Bill is a globally respected banker and has the right experience and skills to drive the Group's new phase of growth," said Peace, who said he will remain in his role until next year to help Winters' transition.

Standard Chartered said Jaspal Bindra, CEO of its Asia business, will leave this year after 16 years with the bank.

It said a further three long standing directors will step down - Ruth Markland, Paul Skinner and Oliver Stocken - and said two new directors will join the board - Gay Huey Evans and Jasmine Whitbread.

02:50pm Railway Budget: The speed of trains connecting major metro cities would be increased up to 200 kilometres per hour (kmph) on nine select railway corridors in a bid to reduce travel time, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu announced today.

"The speed of nine railway corridors will be increased from the existing 110 and 130 km per hour to 160 and 200 kmph respectively so that inter-metro journeys like Delhi-Kolkata and Delhi-Mumbai can be completed overnight," Prabhu announced while presenting his maiden Railway Budget in Lok Sabha.

The increased speed will involve upgradation of track including turnarounds, improve rolling stock to higher standards and adopting improved methods of track recording, monitoring and maintenance.

Efforts would continue to "pursue with vigour" the special projects like high speed rail (Bullet Train) between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, Prabhu said. The feasibility study for this was in an advanced stage and was expected by the middle of this year.

"Quick and appropriate action will be taken once the report is available with us," he said.

02:45pm Defence spending: Sources told CNBC-TV18 that two consortiums are required to develop prototype in 18-24 months. Cost of prototype will be under Rs 1,000 crore for each consortium; so the government will fund 80 percent of prototype cost and partners 20 percent, say sources.

CNBC-TV18 learnt that Tata Power SED-L&T Defence and Bharat Electronics-Rolta consortiums have been selected for developing prototype. Defence ministry has awarded BMS prototype development to 2 consortium and the production will take 4-6 years post prototype completion, say sources.

02:38pm Market Update: The market recouped half of its losses in last hour of trade. The Sensex declined 154.66 points to 28853.33 while the Nifty fell 44 points to 8723.25 ahead of expiry of February derivative contracts.

About 1010 shares have advanced, 1707 shares declined, and 202 shares are unchanged on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

HDFC, ICICI Bank, Reliance Industries and ONGC supported the market on expiry day, trading with marginal gains.

02:34pm Suresh Prabhu (in his speech) says, "Over the next five years, we envisage an investment of Rs. 8.5 lakh crore."

To get the most out of the additional resources that Railway will be investing, Railway will need to ensure the highest standards of operational and business efficiency.

Prabhu proposed the operating ratio for 2015-16 at 88.5 percent as against a targeted operating ratio of 91.8 percent in 2014-15 and 93.6 percent in 2013-14. "I am pleased to state that not only will this be the best operating ratio in the last 9 years but the best after the VIth Pay Commission," he adds.

The Railways will not be able to deliver sustained improvement in operating efficiency unless changes are made to speed up decision making, tighten accountability, and improve management information systems, he says.

02:30pm Railway Minister says Unfortunately, Railway facilities have not improved very substantially over the past few decades. A fundamental reason for this is the chronic underinvestment in Railways, which has led to congestion and over-utilization.

This cycle must be put to an end. Once it does, the gains to the economy will be immense: better services, improved connectivity for all citizens including the poorer segments of our society, lower costs and improved competitiveness. Investment in the Railways will have a large multiplier effect on the rest of the economy and will create more jobs in the economy for the poor.

In the next five years, our priority will be to significantly improve capacity on the existing high-density networks. Improving capacity on existing networks is cheaper. There are no major land acquisition issues and completion time is shorter. The emphasis will be on gauge conversion, doubling, tripling and electrification. Average speed will increase. Trains will become more punctual. Goods trains can be timetabled.

02:25pm Union Budget Expectations: With a decline in Gold imports, Commerce Ministry has sought reduction in import duty on gold, a step that could boost exports and manufacturing of gems and jewellery.

"We have been asking for a cut in gold import duty," Commerce Secretary Rajeev Kher told reporters here on the sidelines of a CII function. In its Budget proposals, the Ministry has suggested the Finance Minister to consider reduction in import duty on the yellow metal.

The industry has sought reduction in customs duty on gold to two percent, from 10 percent now. The gems and jewellery sector, which employs about 35 lakh people, would get a boost from the move. Gold imports in December declined sharply to 39 tonnes, from 152 tonnes in November.

Exports of gems and jewellery too declined by 1.2 percent year-on-year to USD 2.66 billion in December. The sector is one of the 25 thrust areas identified under the 'Make in India' programme.

The campaign aims at attracting domestic and foreign investments to boost manufacturing and create jobs. The government had raised the import duty on gold to contain the widening current account deficit, reports Reuters.

02:20pm Bharti Infratel large trade: About 5.5 crore equity shares (2.9 percent equity) changed hands in 3 block deals on BSE, NSE at Rs 350-353.65 apiece.

"We wish to inform that Bharti Airtel Limited has decided to sell up to 55 million equity shares (with an upsize option of up to 17.5 million additional equity shares) of its subsidiary company Bharti Infratel Limited tomorrow i.e. February 26, 2015 through stock exchanges," the company had said in a regulatory filing yesterday.

Bharti Airtel has 74.85 percent stake in Bharti Infratel as of December 2014. Bharti Infratel had reported a 23 percent jump in consolidated net profit at Rs 507 crore for the quarter ended December 31, 2014, riding on the back of operators' focus on fast roll-out of data networks.

02:15pm Railway 5-year Plan: Railway Minister, Suresh Prabhu envisages Rs 8.5 lakh crore investment over 5 years. "We will invest Rs 1.99 lakh crore on network decongestion and Rs 1.93 lakh crore on network expansion.

Railway will also invest Rs 1.27 lakh crore on safety, Rs 1 lakh crore on station redevelopment and Rs 1.02 lakh crore on rolling stock.

02:12pm Standard Chartered gains 2% as its Asia CEO Jaspal Bindra will step down in April and Global CEO Peter Sands will step down in June.

02:08pm Modi speaks on Rail Budget: Prime Minister Narendra Modi says Railway Budget lays out roadmap to make it key growth driver. This Budget is a forward- looking and passenger centric one he adds.

02:00pm Market Check
The market remained under pressure post Railway freight rate hike. The Sensex plunged 244.59 points or 0.84 percent to 28763.40 and the Nifty slipped 74.40 points or 0.85 percent to 8692.85, dragged by capital goods, technology, auto, banks and pharma stocks.

About 919 shares have advanced, 1737 shares declined, and 188 shares are unchanged on the Bombay Stock Exchange.
 
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has raised freight rate for several sectors like cement, coal & iron & steel, oil etc. He raised freight rate by 3.1 percent for scrap & pig iron, 2.7 percent for slag, 0.8 percent for kerosene and 0.8 percent for LPG.

Freight rate is also hiked for cement by 2.7 percent, 0.8 percent for iron & steel, 10 percent for urea and 6.3 percent for coal. However, Freight rate is lowered by 1 percent for high-speed diesel (HSD).

01:57pm Under five-year plan, Railway will invest Rs 1.99 lakh crore on network decongestion.

Suresh Prabhu expects 16.7 percent growth in FY16 passenger earnings. "FY16 gross traffic receipts are pegged at Rs 1.84 lakh crore," he says.

"We proposed market borrowing of Rs 17,655 crore for FY16 and cashflows to fund Rs 17,739 crore in FY16 spending," he adds.

01:50pm Freight rate for grains is raised by 10 percent while the rate is lowered by 0.3 percent for limestone & manganese.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu expects FY16 freight earnings to be Rs 1.21 lakh crore against Rs 1.06 lakh crore in FY15. "FY16 gross budgetary support from central government is pegged at Rs 40,000 crore," he adds.

01:45pm Market Update: The market fell further with the Sensex losing 309.76 points or 1.07 percent to 28698.23. The Nifty broke 8700-mark, down 92.95 points or 1.06 percent to 8674.30.

Declining shares outnumbered advancing ones by a ratio of 2 to 1 on the Bombay Stock Exchange.
 
BHEL, Hindalco Industries, Sun Pharma, Infosys, Bajaj Auto and Bank of Baroda plunged 2-4 percent.

01:37pm Railway Minister has raised freight rate for several sectors like cement, coal & iron & steel, oil etc. Suresh Prabhu has raised freight rate by 3.1 percent for scrap & pig iron, 2.7 percent for slag, 0.8 percent for kerosene and 0.8 percent for LPG.

Freight rate is also hiked for cement by 2.7 percent, 0.8 percent for iron & steel, 10 percent for urea and 6.3 percent for coal. However, freight rate is lowered by 1 percent for high-speed diesel (HSD).

01:33pm Supreme Court has restrained government from finalising spectrum auction proceedings. According to court, spectrum auctions will be subject to court orders.

01:30pm Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu says he expects 16.7 percent growth in FY16 passenger earnings. "FY16 gross traffic receipts are pegged at Rs 1.84 lakh crore," he adds.

01:28pm Enam Securities chairman Vallabh Bhanshali feels this Railway Budget is a transformational budget in long-term.

"Rail Minister Suresh Prabhu laid out plan to decentralise decision-making. There is a lot of transparency in this Railway Budget," he says.

01:22pm Suresh Prabhu says, "We proposed market borrowing of Rs 17,655 crore for FY16 and proposed cashflows to fund Rs 17,739 crore in FY16 spending. FY16 gross budgetary support from government pegged at Rs 40,000 crore."

01:18pm "There is no increase in passenger fares," says Suresh Prabhu, adding he envisages Rs 8.5 lakh crore investment over 5 years in Railways.

He proposed operating ratio of 88.5 percent for FY16 versus 91.8 percent FY15. "We will increase track capacity by 14 percent to 138,000 km."

01:15pm Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu will revamp PPP model in railways. "We will to undertake digitisation of rail land records," he adds.

Railway will increase annual passenger capacity to 30 million from 21 million and will increase annual freight capacity to 1.5 billion tonne from 1 billion and will increase track capacity by 14 percent to 138,000 km," says Prabhu.

01:10pm Railway will set up infra fund and holding company to raise long-term debt. "Plan Budget goes up 52 percent to Rs 1.11 lakh crore for FY16," Prabhu says.

"Railway proposed to launch Rs 2,500 crore of projects via BOT. 1,000 MW of solar plants will be set up on railway/private land," he adds.

01:05pm Railway will monetise assets rather than sell them. "We will raise funds from pension, insurance and multilateral agencies. We will set up financing cell in railway board," Prabhu says.

01:00pm Market Check
The market extended losses in afternoon trade amid Railway Budget speech. The Sensex fell 209.75 points to 28798.24 and the Nifty declined 50.20 points to 8717.05.

The market breadth is weak as about 946 shares have advanced and 1586 shares declined on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

Railway Minister, Suresh Prabhu says there is no increase in passenger fares. He envisages Rs 8.5 lakh crore investment over five years.

Prabhu proposed operating ratio of 88.5 percent for FY16 against 91.8 percent FY15. He says 10 stations will be taken up for satellite stations. "We will to spend Rs 96,182 crore on capacity expansion in FY16. We are committed to providing rail connectivity to north east," he adds.

12:58pm Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu says speed of 9 rail corridors will increase up to 160 km per hour. "Railway will make wagon-leasing scheme attractive for private players. Railway proposed to install train warning protection systems and also proposed to install train collision avoidance systems," he adds.

12:55pm Review of private freight terminal (PFT) schemes has been underway, says Prabhu, adding feasibility study for Mumbai-Ahmadabad hi-speed service is in advanced stage. "Railway will construct road overbridges for unmanned level crossings and will spend Rs 6,581 crore on level crossing safety."

12:53pm Railway is planning DFC feeder routes with help of private participation. "Focus will be to improve freight handling capacity. 750km of civil contracts will be awarded on DFC in FY16 and 1,300 km system contracts will be awarded on DFC in FY16," Prabhu says.

12:50pm The Sensex lost 156.49 points to 28851.50 and the Nifty declined 44.95 points to 8722.30. About 954 shares have advanced, 1565 shares declined, and 188 shares are unchanged on the BSE.

12:45pm Prabhu says 10 stations will be taken up for satellite stations. "We will to spend Rs 96,182 crore on capacity expansion in FY16. We are committed to providing rail connectivity to north east," he adds.

12:40pm Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu says newly manufactured coaches will be Braille-enabled. "We will be increasing number of advanced booking days to 120 days," he adds.

12:39pm Railway will have Wi-fi in all category A & B stations. "Senior citizens will be able to book wheelchairs online. More general class coaches will be added in select trains. Middle berth will be reserved for women & senior citizens. Railway provided Rs 120 crore for lifts, escalators at major stations."

12:37pm The Sensex shed 109.01 points to 28898.98 and the Nifty fell 30.65 points to 8736.60 amid Railway Budget Speech. About 1010 shares have advanced, 1489 shares declined, and 182 shares are unchanged on the BSE.

12:36pm Suresh Prabhu says Railway will move towards paperless ticketing. "We proposed integrated customer portal for passengers and proposed SMS alert services for train arrival, departure times. We will have Wi-fi in all category B stations. Phone charging facilities will be provided in trains," he adds.

12:33pm "We will have a 138 as a national helpline for railway-related issues and 182 will be toll number for security-related calls. Passengers without reservations can book tickets in 5 minutes. We will create a multilingual e-ticketing system," says Prabhu.

"We will issue unreserved tickets on smartphones via applications. Passengers will be able to book food options from IRCTC website," he adds..

12:30pm Prabhu proposed operating ratio of 88.5 percent for FY16 against 91.8 percent FY15. "We will have 11 areas of thrust for railways. We will have toilets in 650 stations; replace 17000 toilets. And will have a thrust for cleanliness in railways," he adds.

12:25pm There is no increase in passenger fares, says Suresh Prabhu.

12:23pm Railway Minister envisages Rs 8.5 lakh crore investment over five years.

12:20pm Railway will increase annual passenger capacity to 30 million from 21 million. "We will focus on adopting a medium-term perspective. We will increase annual freight capacity to 1.5 billion tonne from 1 billion tonne," says Prabhu.

12:18pm Railway Minister Prabhu says trains will become more punctual in next 5 years. "Focus will be on improving speed of railways and major focus will be on gauge conversion & electrification," he adds.

12:17pm Railway ministry will increase investment in railways to create more jobs.

12:15pm Investment in Railways will have a multiplier effect on economy. Priority to improve capacity on high density networks, he says.

12:13pm Railway Minister says Railway will play a major role in development of India. "Rail facilities have not improved much over last 2 decades," he adds.

12:10pm RBI deputy says: India is likely to meet the central bank's inflation target of 6 percent by January 2016, while economic growth is expected to gradually pick up, Reserve Bank of India Deputy Governor SS Mundra said.

"Inflation should be as indicated by Reserve Bank of India. By January 2016 it should be meeting with our glide path of 6 percent," Mundra told reporters on the sidelines of an industry event.

"Some global uncertainty will always be with us and the system should be prepared to deal with them."

India's consumer prices inflation accelerated to 5.11 percent in January, after shifting to a new base year for calculating prices, but stayed well below the central bank's target, bolstering prospects for further interest rate cuts.

12:00pm Market Check
The market remained under pressure today with the Sensex struggling at 29000 level ahead of Railway Budget. The index fell 66.82 points to 28941.17 and the Nifty declined 20.30 points to 8746.95.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu will present its Railway Budget 2015-16 in parliament today. ICICIdirect believes the Budget 2015-16 will focus on enhancing safety and services by driving better internal generation of resources (fare hike in June 2014 is a step in that direction).

"The hike in railway fares would provide a buffer to the Railway Minister through which he would be able to spend on better amenities for passengers and somewhat enhance IR capacity through capex to improve the operational efficiency of existing network," the report.

Titagarh Wagons, Kernex Microsystem and Container Corporation gained 1-3 percent while Kalindee Rail Nirman and Texmaco Rail declined.

The broader markets too declined. The BSE Midcap and Smallcap indices went down 0.2 percent each. About 1023 shares have advanced, 1379 shares declined, and 180 shares are unchanged on the Bombay Stock Exchange.

11:55 am RBI: The Capital needed by India's state-owned Banks to fulfil Basel III requirements could be higher than the USD 38.73 billion estimated earlier, Reserve Bank of India Deputy Governor S.S. Mundra said. Mundra added it was also not the right time to restrict capital infusion from the government to just a few state-owned banks based on their performance.

11:40 am Ratings upgarde? Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said it was lowering its economic growth forecasts for China and Japan, while raising the outlook for India. For China, S&P now sees 2015 gross domestic product rising 6.9 percent, down from a previous projection of 7.1 percent growth. For 2016, it cut China's GDP expansion to 6.6 percent from 6.7 percent.

11:30 am Buzzing: Shares of Central Bank slipped 3 percent intraday as investors look worried on company's plans to sell its arm. According to CNBC-TV18 sources, the PSU has begun the process of selling off its housing finance business (CBHFL). The bank hopes to raise about Rs 200 crore from the 64 percent stake in Cent Bank Home Finance.

According to sources, 11 players have already shown interest in buying this arm which including NBFCs and private equity players. However, if the bank's valuation expectations are not met then the company may consider an IPO.

11:20 am Suresh Prabhu says: Railway Budget will signal the direction of long-term reforms needed to revamp the world's fourth-largest rail network, its minister said.

"The Budget will set the direction of long and difficult road of reform," Suresh Prabhu told state-run broadcaster Newschannel ahead of his Budget presentation.

India's decrepit state-run train services stand to receive at least a 25 percent boost in investment to over USD 9 billion, funded solely by falling fuel costs, according to officials familiar with the Railway Budget.

The market is still in red just an hour ahead of Rail Budget to be presented in the Parliament. The Sensex is down 88.28 points at 28919.71 and the Nifty is down 28.80 points at 8738.45. About 944 shares have advanced, 1263 shares declined, and 169 shares are unchanged.

HDFC, Sesa Sterlite, Bharti Airtel, TCS and ICICI Bank are top gainers in the Sensex. Among the losers are BHEL, Bajaj Auto, Sun Pharma, Hindalco and Coal India.

Railway stocks such as Titagarh Wagons, Kernex Micro & Hind Rectifers are in focus ahead the Rail Budget today. The market will be keenly watching the operating ratio target, capital outlay or capex and any change in passenger or freight rates.

Globally, Asia is mostly firm with the Nikkei at a 15-year high.

Asian shares prices held near five-month highs on Thursday after upbeat US housing and Chinese factory data, while the dollar nursed modest losses following Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's comments.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan stood little changed near the five-month high hit on Wednesday while Japan's Nikkei rose 0.2 percent. Asian shares prices held near five-month highs on Thursday after upbeat US housing and Chinese factory data, while the dollar nursed modest losses following Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's comments.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan stood little changed near the five-month high hit on Wednesday while Japan's Nikkei rose 0.2 percent.

10:59am Market Expert: Global investors are bullish on India, but there is a growing feeling that the recovery in the economy could get delayed to the end of next fiscal, says IIFL's Sandeepa Arora.

In an interview to CNBC-TV18, she says bulk of the investments is happening in sectors like banking and IT. She says investors are wary of taking a big exposure to high beta stocks.

Arora expects the upcoming Union Budget to kickstart the investment cycle in the country. She is hopeful that the Budget will focus on reviving infrastructure growth, besides spelling guidelines for recapitalization of PSU banks.

Another expectation of the market is that the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) being extended to food and fertilizers.

10:40am NTPC In Focus: The union cabinet approved state-run power producer NTPC's plans to set up 15,000 megawatt of grid-connected solar projects, which would be completed in three tranches.

The rapidly falling cost of solar power has ignited interest in its potential in Asia's third-largest economy, which relies on coal for three-fifths of its energy needs while solar supplies less than 1 percent.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi aims to make India one of the world's largest renewable energy markets, targeting 100,000 MW of output by 2022 from just 3,000 MW currently.

10:20am Railway stocks: Titagarh Wagons and Container Corporation gained 1-2 percent while Kalindee Rail Nirman, Texmaco Rail and Kernex Microsystem fell 1-2.6 percent ahead of Railway Budget.

ICICIdirect believes the Railway Budget 2015-16 will focus on enhancing safety and services by driving better internal generation of resources (fare hike in June 2014 is a step in that direction).

"The hike in railway fares would provide a buffer to the Railway Minister through which he would be able to spend on better amenities for passengers and somewhat enhance IR capacity through capex to improve the operational efficiency of existing network," the report says.

10:00am Market Check
The market remained under pressure ahead of expiry of February derivative contracts and Railway Budget today. The Sensex declined 63.44 points to 28944.55 and the Nifty fell 17.40 points to 8749.85.

The broader markets declined too; the BSE Midcap and Smallcap indices lost 0.2 percent each. About 830 shares have advanced, 1067 shares declined, and 177 shares are unchanged on the BSE.

Neelkanth Mishra, Credit Suisse says in the last ten days, the refrain "Budget will disappoint" has been heard often, tempering some of the high expectations. However, both the earlier excitement and the reversal have been rather vague in terms of concrete expectations, he adds.

"We expect a growth-boosting stimulus: a rise in non-defence capex & believe an FRBM push-out, if for the right reasons would not hurt yield much," Mishra says.

Infosys, Sun Pharma, Bajaj Auto and Hindalco Industries declined 1-1.8 percent followed by HDFC Bank, L&T, Axis Bank, SBI, HUL, Dr Reddy's Labs, Maruti and Cipla with 0.4-0.8 percent loss.

However, Sesa Sterlite gained 1.7 percent as Goa CM Laxmikant Parsekar says Ministry of Environment, Forest will lift suspension of Goa's mining leases within a week.

HDFC, ICICI Bank, ONGC, Reliance Industries, Tata Motors and BHEL climbed 0.3-0.9 percent.

Nifty falls ahead of F&O expiry, Rail Budget. Check impact on your Portfolio

9:50 am Market outlook: Global investors are bullish on India, but there is a growing feeling that the recovery in the economy could get delayed to the end of next fiscal, says IIFL's Sandeepa Arora.

In an interview to CNBC-TV18, she says bulk of the investments is happening in sectors like banking and IT. She says investors are wary of taking a big exposure to high beta stocks.

Arora expects the upcoming Union Budget to kickstart the investment cycle in the country. She is hopeful that the Budget will focus on reviving infrastructure growth, besides spelling guidelines for recapitalization of PSU banks.

Another expectation of the market is that the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) being extended to food and fertilisers.

9:30 am Buzzing: Shares of Bharti Infratel is down 4.5 percent as Bharti Airtel is planning to sell shares in the tower company. Bharti Airtel is looking to raise over Rs 2,500 crore through a sale of shares. The telecom operator plans to sell Infratel shares at Rs 350-Rs 360 each, as against Tuesday's closing price of Rs 370.80 on the BSE. Bank of America Merrill Lynch and UBS are the bankers to the deal.

The market has opened flat on February F&O expiry and Railway Budget day. The Sensex is up 27.01 points or at 29035.00 and the Nifty is up 11.75 points at 8779.00. About 371 shares have advanced, 126 shares declined, and 111 shares are unchanged.

Sesa Sterlite, NTPC, ICICI Bank, ONGC and GAIL are top gainers while Infosys, BHEL, Tata Power, Coal India and Dr Reddy's Labs are among the losers in the Sensex.

All rail stocks are under pressure as Suresh Prabhu prepares to read out Railway Budget at 12 pm today.

The Indian rupee opened marginally higher at 61.93 per dollar on Thursday against previous day's closing value of 61.97 a dollar.

The dollar nurses modest losses, having eased for a second straight session after recent remarks from the head of the Federal Reserve prompted markets to push back the timing of an eventual US interest rate hike.

Mohan Shenoi of Kotak Mahindra Bank said, "A strong reform-friendly budget could strengthen rupee in the medium term. Gains however will be tempered by strong dollar globally and RBI intervention to prevent currency volatility. We expect the USD-INR pair to trade today in a range of 61.80-62.10/dollar."

Meanwhile, in Asia, Nikkei hit fresh 15-year high though the rest of Asia was subdued in early morning trade. The dollar -yen has moved back towards the 119 mark, which is good for exporters. Kospi was seeing profit booking from a near 3-month high.

Stocks in the US closed narrowly mixed with the Dow Jones closing at a new record amid firming oil prices, moderate housing data.
In Europe, equities ended lower as investors focused on a slew of corporate earnings

In commodities, Nymex Crude holds steady around USD 51 a barrel, Brent crude inches towards USD 62 dollars per barrel.

For the precious metals gold, prices remain largely unchanged at around USD 1205 per ounce.