Nifty ends Feb series below 7000, Sensex weak on Rail Budget day

3:30 pm Market closing: Dragged by a disapointing Rail Budget and February Future & Option series expiry, market sentiment remained low. The Nifty ended down 48.10 points or 0.7 percent at 6970.60 and  the Sensex was down 112.93 points or 0.5 percent at 22976.00. About 888 shares advanced, 1561 shares declined, and 169 shares were unchanged.

ONGC, Sun Pharma, HDFC, Coal India and Hindalco were top gainers while SBI, GAIL, Tata Motors, ICICI Bank and L&T were losers.

3:20 pm 3 new train services: Introduction of three select train services -Humsafar, Tejas and UDAY- for reserved passengers was one of the highlights of the Railway Budget 2016-17 presented by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu today.

Humsafar would be fully air conditioned third A C service with an optional service for meals.

Tejas on the other hand would showcase the future of train travel in India. Operating at speeds of 130 kmph and above, it will offer onboard services such as entertainment, local cuisine and wi-fi through service providers, while ensuring accountability and improved customer satisfaction.

3:10 pm Railways' earning falls short of target: Railways' revenue from passenger fares as well as freight rates is expected to fall short of the Budget target by Rs 15,744 crore in the current fiscal.

While it had budgeted to earn over Rs 1.83 lakh crore in 2015-16, as per the revised estimates it is going to earn about Rs 1.67 lakh crore.

Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu attributed the shortfall to tepid economic growth due to global slowdown.

"Historically declining model share of Indian Railways, which dropped from 62 per cent in 1980 to 36 per cent in 2012, is continuing to exert pressure on the institution," Prabhu said presenting the Rail Budget for 2016-17.

3:00 pm Market Update: Equity benchmarks extended losses in late trade with the Nifty struggling below 7000 ahead of expiry of February futures & options contracts. The index fell 48.35 points or 0.69 percent to 6970.35.

The Sensex declined 115.40 points or 0.50 percent to 22973.53. The BSE Midcap dropped more than 1 percent and Smallcap index slipped 0.9 percent.

Infosys, L&T, Tata Motors, ICICI Bank, SBI, Axis Bank and Maruti Suzuki were top negative contributors' to Sensex, down 1-3 percent while HDFC, Sun Pharma, ONGC and Coal India gained 2 percent.

The Indian rupee hit fresh 30-month low today, down 17 paise to 68.73 a dollar.

2:55 pm Food subsidies: India's food ministry wants Rs 1.40 lakh crore (USD 20.40 billion) in subsidies for the next fiscal year, a rise of 13 percent from the previous year, to run a mammoth food welfare programme after two successive droughts, said a senior government official.

Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi is implementing the expensive food welfare plan approved by his predecessor Manmohan Singh, his government is trying to rein in overall subsidies to focus on investment in manufacturing and infrastructure.

"In its previous Budget, the government had allocated 1.24 trillion rupees as food subsidy for 2015/16 but we now need 1.40 trillion for next year. Let's see what's in store for us in the Budget," the source, who did not wish to be named, told Reuters.

On Monday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will present his annual Budget for the 2016/17 fiscal year starting in April.

2:50 pm Mahindra Finance in MF biz soon: Mahindra Finance, a non-banking financial company (NBFC), which recently received licence from Sebi for mutual fund business, is likely to kick-start its MF arm by April, a top company official said.

Moreover, the company is pinning hopes on a good monsoon to improve its performance in the next fiscal.

"We have recently received licence for mutual fund arm and we are currently busy filing for some of our MF products for Sebi's approval before we kick off the MF arm," Mahindra Finance Managing Director Ramesh G Iyer told PTI.

2:45 pm Railway's borrowing plan: Indian Railways will borrow Rs 20,000 crore from markets through its two companies IRFC and Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd for capital expenditure during 2016-17, a whopping 69 percent rise over the current fiscal year's revised estimate.

Market borrowing, as per the revised estimate for current fiscal, has been pegged at about Rs 11,848 crore, lower than Rs 17,655 crore estimated earlier, according to the Railway Budget for 2016-17, which was tabled by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu in Parliament today.

Indian Railways Finance Corporation (IRFC) will raise Rs 19,760 crore in 2016-17 for investment in rolling stock and projects, while RVNL plans to raise Rs 240 crore.

2:40 pm Road min seeks rebate: Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has approached Finance Ministry with a proposal for rebate in the form of excise duty reduction for consumers who purchase a new vehicle and give their old one for scrapping.

The ministry is in the process of making a policy to incentivise people to bring their old vehicles for scrapping, Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways P Radhakrishnan said in a written reply to Lok Sabha. "A letter has been written to the Finance Ministry on January 20, 2016 to intimate if an incentive in the form of reduction in excise duty on the purchase of new vehicle can be given," he added.

2:35 pm Freight rate revival soon: India's state-owned railways is reviewing the tariff structure for its freight business and wants to expand the basket of commodities it transports to boost revenues, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said on Thursday.

Presenting the annual Rail Budget for 2016/17, Suresh Prabhu said the freight business - which provides two-thirds of Indian railways' revenues - was struggling as capacity constraints bite and industrial demand slows.

2:30 pm Rubber production falls: Natural rubber production fell by 3.4 per cent during the last month to 56,000 tonnes, while imports rose by 21 per cent to 35,174 tonnes.

Production stood at 58,000 tonnes and imports at 29,141 tonnes in January, according to the Rubber Board data.

Natural rubber consumption declined to 82,000 tonnes in January 2016 from 83,850 tonnes in the same month last year.

In the first 10 months of the current financial year 2015-16, natural rubber production fell by nearly 13 per cent to 4,96,000 tonnes as against 5,68,000 tonnes in the corresponding period of the previous year.

Consumption also fell by 3 per cent to 8,21,910 tonnes in the April-January period of this fiscal from 8,48,535 tonnes in the year-ago period.

2:25 pm L&T in news: The hydrocarbon engineering arm of L&T has signed a long-term agreement with McDermott International for subsea projects in deepwater segment in the east coast of India.

L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering Ltd (LTHE) has inked the agreement with McDermott to develop a cost-effective approach at the L&T subsidiary's Kattupalli facility near Chennai, L&T said in a regulatory filing today.

McDermott provides engineering, procurement, construction and installation (EPCI) services for offshore and subsea field developments worldwide. It delivers fixed and floating production facilities, pipelines and subsea systems from concept to commissioning.

2:20 pm Railway to cut cost: Railways said on Thursday it planned to cut costs and generate new sources of revenue next year to offset a big rise in its wage bill and help keep an ambitious modernisation plan on track on track.

Presenting the annual Rail Budget for 2016/17, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said the planned budget outlay for the world's fourth-largest network would be 1.21 trillion rupees (USD 17.6 billion), up about 20 percent from the current year's estimated expenditure.

But a slowdown in growth of passenger and freight revenues has put pressure on the railways' finances one year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government unveiled a 5-year USD 137 billion investment plan to overhaul the saturated and decrepit network.

2:15 pm Coal India production target: The government is working to increase coal production by Coal India Ltd to 1,000 million tonne in the next four years through the use of latest environment-friendly technology, Lok Sabha was informed today.

The estimated production planned by CIL during 2019-20 is 908.10 million tonne and there are plans to raise it upto 1,000 million tonne, Coal Minister Piyush Goyal said while responding to supplementaries during Question Hour.

The roadmap prepared by CIL to increase the production has been put in public domain, he said.

2:10 pm No changes in Rail fares: The Railway Budget for 2016-17 today spared passengers and goods movement from any increase in tariffs while it announced introduction of three new superfast trains and creation of dedicated north-south, east-west and east coast freight corridors by 2019.

Presenting his second Budget in the Lok Sabha, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu promised rationalising of the tariff structure by undertaking a review to evolve competitive rates vis-a-vis other modes of transport and to expand the freight basket as a means of additional revenue mobilisation.

Unlike last year when he tweaked freight rates, Prabhu made no changes either in passenger fares or freight rates.

2:00 pm Market Check: The market continued to be volatile with negative bias ahead of expiry of February derivative contracts. The 30-share BSE Sensex fell 29.60 points to 23059.33 and the Nifty declined 19.05 points to 6999.65.

The market breadth remained weak as about 1374 shares declined against 904 advancing shares on the BSE.

Zicom Security Systems rallied more than 8 percent after Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu says all stations will have CCTV surveillance in phased manner, adding 311 railway stations currently are under CCTV surveillance. The government will also introduce CCTV coverage at all Tatkal counters.

KEC International gained 5 percent. Prabhu says railway ministry will hasten electrification of railways working with power ministry as railway plans to electrify 2,000 kilometer track in FY17.

1:55 pm Rail Budget: In additions, the Railways plans to nuture customers by appointing key Customer Managers to liaison with major freight stakeholders. Each Zonal Railway will develop customer commitment charter indicating service level commitments of IR, will explore the feasibility of opening up leasing of general purpose wagons.

1:50 pm Rail Budget: Undertake review of tariff policy to evolve a competitive rate structure vis a vis other modes, permit multi-point loading/unloading and apply differentiated tariffs to increase utilization of alternate routes, explore possibility of signing long term tariff contracts with key freight customers using pre-determined price escalation principles.

1:45 pm Rail Budget: To start time-tabled freight container, parcel and special commodity trains on a pilot basis. The container sector would be opened to all traffic barring coal, specified mineral ores and part-loads during the non-peak season. All existing terminals/sheds would be granted access to container traffic, where considered feasible.


To start time-tabled freight container, parcel and special commodity trains on a pilot basis. The container sector would be opened to all traffic barring coal, specified mineral ores and part-loads during the non-peak season. All existing terminals/sheds would be granted access to container traffic, where considered feasible.

1:35 pm Rail Budget: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday outlined a three-pronged approach to help Railways regain its market share in freight haulage. From a high of close to 80 percent in 1951, Railways' share of freight has fallen below 20 percent. A combination of congested rail networks and a steady rise in freight rates to offset the losses in passenger revenues is to blame for this trend.

1:30 pm Rail Budget highlight: Gross traffic receipts kept at Rs 184,820 crore. Passenger earnings growth has been pegged at 12.4 percent and earnings target budgeted at Rs 51,012 crore. The freight traffic is pegged at incremental traffic of 50 million tonnes, anticipating a healthier growth in the core  sector of economy. Goods earnings is accordingly proposed  at Rs 1,17,933 crore. Other coaching and sundries projected at Rs 6,185 crore and Rs 9590.3 crore respectively. 

1:25 pm Market check: The Sensex is down 111.14 points or 0.5 peercent at 22977.79, and the Nifty down 42.60 points or 0.6 percent at 6976.10. About 836 shares have advanced, 1402 shares declined, and 149 shares are unchanged.

1:20 pm Rail Budget highlight:
FY17 operating ratio seen 92 percent
Increasing rigour on cost optimisation in FY17
Freight's contribution to earnings seen 67 percent
FY17 gross budgetary support seen Rs 40000 crore
44 new projects planned FY17 worth Rs 92700 crore

1:15 pm Rail Budget highlight:
FY17 investment seen at Rs 1.21 trillion
Investment rate of capex has increased substantially
FY17 capital expenditure seen Rs 1.2 trillion
FY17 revenue seen Rs 1.84 trillion

1:10 pm Market check: The Sensex is down 118.67 points or 0.5 percent at 22970.26, and the Nifty down 42.90 points or 0.6 percent at 6975.80.  About 830 shares have advanced, 1365 shares declined, and 158 shares are unchanged.

Sensex, Nifty continues to struggle as the Rail Budget has not announced anything so far to spark sentiments. The Sensex is down 79.05 points or 0.3 percent at 23009.88, and the Nifty down 32.20 points or 0.5 percent at 6986.50. About 848 shares have advanced, 1331 shares declined, and 163 shares are unchanged.

Coal India, HDFC, Hindalco, Sun Pharma and ONGC are top gainers while GAIl, Adani Ports, Bajaj Auto, SBI and Infosys are losers in the Sensex.

12:59 pm: Railway ministery says Railway will develop national railway plan in consultation with states and this plan will synchronise rail with other modes of transport.

It proposes to examine creation of holding company for railway units.

Railway will increase in track laying target to up demand for steel.

Container sector will be open to all select ores.

"We will raise non-tariff revenue by monetising assets going forward and invited FM Radio to provide train borne entertainment by installing PA systems," says Prabhu.

Freight policy: Prabhu says current freight tariff policy will be reviewed.

"We will try to evolve a competitive rate structure for freight tariff," he adds.

12:58 pm Railway minister says at least 10 goods sheds will be developed via transloc in FY17 and proposes to develop rail site logistics warehousing.

Warehouses will be created via PPP mode, he adds.

12:56 pm Prabhu says detailed policy on suburban ecosystem is expected in 4 months.

"Railway will partner with state government for suburban system in tech hub of Bengaluru and also intend partnering with Gujarat, Telangana, Tamil Nadu for suburban sections.

12:55 pm Market Update: Equity benchmarks remained lower. The Sensex fell 59.65 points to 23029.28 and the Nifty declined 28.25 points to 6990.45.

12:54 pm Railway will install hi-tech centralised network of 20,000 screens on 2000 stations

12:51 pm: Railway minister says three direct services, fully airconditioned Humsafar will travel at 130 km per hour.

12:49 pm Coach cleaning: Prabhu says under 'Clean My Coach' passengers can request for coach cleaning via SMS.

12:47 pm Women Reservation: Railway will introduce a sub-quota of 33 percent for women in each of reserved categories.

12:45 pm New Express: Railway introduces Utkrisht Double-Decker Yatri Express, which will increase capacity by 40 percent.

It also introduces Antyodaya Express, superfast train for long routes. All operational haults will be converted in commercial haults.

12:43 pm Savings: Railway minister says annualised savings of Rs 3,000 crore will be achieved in FY17 and railway plans to set up a new fund for financing projects.

12:42 pm Railway has entered into partnerships with global institutions to improve operations. Funding by LIC to ease pressure on debt market, Prabhu says.

12:41 pm KEC International up 3.5%: Electrification of 2000 km by Railway is positive for KEC International.

12:40 pm Savings: Railway minister Suresh Prabhu says inventory management led to savings of Rs 64 crore.

He also says Railway University is being set up at Vadodara, Gujarat.

12:37 pm Contracts: Suresh Prabhu says contracts of Rs 24,000 crore were awarded since November 2014 against Rs 13,000 crore in last 6 years.

All contracts for civil engineering works will be awarded soon, he adds.

12:35 pm Railway generated 65,000 additional berths via augmenting 884 coaches.

"We proposes to invite bids to develop few large stations under PPP model," Prabhu says.

12:31 pm Ports: Railway will set up Margao, Hazira ports in FY17 via public private partnership model.

"We will set up 2 locomotive factories at the cost of Rs 40,000 crore," he says, adding FY17 gross budgetary support is seen at Rs 40,000 crore.

12:29 pm Fund raising: "We will tap rupee bond market overseas to raise funds,"
Prabhu says.

Railway plans FY17 gross traffic revenue at Rs 1.85 lakh crore, up 10 percent YoY.

12:25 pm Broad Gauge lines: Suresh Prabhu says Railway will commission 9 km per day of broad gauge lines in FY18 & 13 km per day in FY19.

He also proposes to electrify 2,000 km of railway lines in FY17.

12:23 pm Goods earnings target: Prabhu says FY17 goods earnings target stood at Rs 1.18 lakh crore.

12:20 pm Pension spending: Railway targets FY17 pension spending at Rs 45,500 crore.

12:21 pm Freight corridors: Prabhu proposes to set up 3 freight corridors.

12:19 pm Passenger revenue: Railway targets passenger revenue at Rs 51,012 crore for FY17, up 12.4 percent over a year-ago period.

12:18 pm LIC funding to Railway: LIC has agreed to provide Rs 1.5 lakh crore to Railway for next five years.

12:15 pm Capex: Railway plans FY17 spending at Rs 1.21 lakh crore, up 21 percent compared to previous year.

12:12 pm Railway Savings: Suresh Prabhu expect savings at Rs 8720 croe in FY16.

12:09 pm Operational ratio: Railway proposes FY17 operating ratio at 92% against 90 percent projected for current fiscal.

12:07 pm Rail Budget speech begins: Government's vision is to make Railway backbone of India's development by improving quality of service. It should be template for transportation.

"We are making all efforts to translate government's vision into realty," says Prabhu.

12:05 pm Rail Budget expectations: Analysts expect 20-25 percent YoY increase in capital outlay for railway for FY17 at Rs 1.25 lakh crore.

During FY16, rail minister had promised an aggressive capex plan for the railways from 2015-19 at Rs 8.5 lakh crore. During FY16, the budgeted capital outlay was Rs 1 lakh crore.

He targeted operating ratio for 2015-16 at 88.5 percent against 91.8 percent in 2014-15, which is the best in last 9 years.

Analysts expect wagon procurement to increase to 18,000 - 19,000 units and also expect healthy improvement in allocation towards DFC (dedicated freight corridor).

Stocks lik Titagarh Wagons, Texmaco, Kalindee Rail, Siemens, ABB, CIMMCO, Stone India and BEML will be closely watched.

12:00 pm Market Check
The market remained rangebound in noon trade as the Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu will present his second Rail Budget now. The Sensex fell 23.38 points to 23065.55 and the Nifty declined 13.40 points to 7005.30.

HDFC, Sun Pharma, ONGC, Coal India and Hindalco are top gainers, up 1-2 percent while Infosys, TCS, ICICI Bank and Reliance Industries declined 0.5-1 percent.

11:55 am  Market view: Harendra Kumar Of Elara Capital feels market downside is limited from current levels and now is a good time to start investing in value stocks. Market is in a sweet spot with most economic indicators turning positive, he says adding, valuations are comfortable and it is time to cherry-pick good stocks. Interactions with large foreign institutional investors indicate the recovery will begin soon with high quality companies having strong cash flows and attractive valuations being bought into in the early stage of the rally, he says.

11:45 am Oil Hike in customs duty will have to be borne by the oil marketing companies (OMCs), says AK Sharma, Director-Finance at IOC.

Crude cost will increase by USD 1.50 per barrel (bbl) if the duty is increased by 5 percent, which will further hit the company's EBITDA by Rs 2,000-3,000 crore, Sharma tells CNBC-TV18.

He says low crude price cannot be passed on to the customers as finished products are only linked with product prices internationally.

11:30 am Budget hopes: The Budget is likely to set a fiscal deficit target of 3.7 percent for FY17, and service tax is likely to be hiked to 16 percent, says Sonal Varma, Executive Director and India Economist at Nomura Financial Advisory Services.

In an interview to CNBC-TV18, Varma says she expects the subsidy bill to be flat and will be watching the composition of expenditure.

She expects the government's net market borrowing for FY17 to be around Rs 4.8 lakh crore and gross borrowing to be around Rs 6.5 lakh crore.

11:20 am  FM views: India needs competitive tax rates to become an attractive manufacturing hub that will help create jobs and boost economic growth, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said. "Manufacturing is not only extremely important activity but it is one activity with its spiral effect on the economy which also creates the largest volumes of job, and a tax on that manufacturing adds to the government revenue. "In order to keep manufacturing competitive we have to keep our rates competitive and therefore have to occasionally vary those rates...," he said at the Investiture Ceremony 2016 and Annual Central Excise Custom Day Function.

The market is still sluggish as investors seem to be anxious before the Rail Budget is announced at 12 pm today. The Sensex is up 20.02 points at 23108.95 and the Nifty is down 0.60 points at 7018.10. About 954 shares have advanced, 906 shares declined, and 124 shares are unchanged.

Coal India, Sun Pharma, Hindalco, M&M and HDFC are top gainers while Wipro, GAIL, Adani Ports, TCS and Bharti Airtel are losers in the Sensex. rail stocks are in focus.

Gold reversed early losses as volatility in stock markets stoked safe-haven demand, with bullion funds seeing fresh buying from investors. Asian shares got off to a shaky start as investors remained cautious in the face of a fragile recovery in crude oil. Safe-haven assets, including the Japanese yen, gained across the board.

10:59 am Market Update: Equity benchmarks remained rangebound. The Sensex rose 28.24 points to 23117.17 and the Nifty gained 1.95 points at 7020.65.

10:55 am Railway Budget Expectations: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu will present his second Railway Budget speech today.

Analysts expect 20-25 percent YoY increase in capital outlay for railway for FY17 at Rs 1.25 lakh crore.

During FY16, rail minister had promised an aggressive capex plan for the railways from 2015-19 at Rs 8.5 lakh crore. During FY16, the budgeted capital outlay was Rs 1 lakh crore.

He targeted operating ratio for 2015-16 at 88.5 percent against 91.8 percent in 2014-15, which is the best in last 9 years.

Analysts expect wagon procurement to increase to 18,000 - 19,000 units and also expect healthy improvement in allocation towards DFC (dedicated freight corridor).

Stocks lik Titagarh Wagons, Texmaco, Kalindee Rail, Siemens, ABB, CIMMCO, Stone India and BEML will be closely watched.

10:50 am Richa Ind ahead of Rail Budget: Sandeep Gupta of Richa Industries says the company will look forward to announcements on upgradation of rail infra.

It has almost 30 percent order from from railways. He expects 7-8 percent margin of railway orders.

He says orderbook stood at Rs 300 crore in construction business, adding he expects FY17 revennue to be around Rs 550 crore.

10:45 am India-US defence deal: The US is close to signing three foundational agreements with India in fields of defence and communications that will give a big boost to the bilateral ties, a top American military commander has said.

"We were moving out aggressively in technical field with DTTI (Defense Technology and Trade Initiative)," US Pacific Command Commander Admiral Harry Harris said in response to a question on India-US defence relationship.

"There are some what we call foundational agreements that have to be executed with partner nations in order to move, quote unquote, 'to the next level'.

10:25 am Market Expert: The Indian market is probably going through a bottoming process at around the 6,800-7,200 range, is the word coming in from Sanjay Dutt, director of Quantum Securities.

He advises investors to look for good quality stocks at this point as equities will not go out of fashion and India will continue to remain a preferred investment destination.

On the upcoming Union Budget, which will be presented on February 29, he says even if Finance Minister Arun Jaitley relaxes the fiscal deficit target it won't be looked at negatively. The Budget will be taken positively if the FM indicates aggressive government spending to boost investment cycle.

10:00 am Market Check
The market continued to be volatile ahead of expiry of February derivative contracts and Railway Budget. The Sensex rose 25.83 points to 23114.76 and the Nifty advanced 1.20 points to 7019.90.

Sun Pharma, Lupin, Tata Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra, Coal India, ONGC and Hindalco Industries topped buying list on Sensex, up 1-2 percent while TCS, Adani Ports, Wipro, Bharti Airtel and NTPC were under pressure, down more than 1 percent.

Asian markets were mixed with the Shanghai falling 3.6 percent. Concerns were raised over China this week after the People's Bank of China set the yuan mid-point rate notably lower at 6.5273 to the dollar on Tuesday, down 0.17 percent from Monday's fix, indicating policymakers may want the Chinese currency to strengthen. Today's mid-point was set at 6.5318.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was down 1.2 percent while the Japanese benchmark Nikkei 225 index was up about 0.9 percent.

9:55 am Opinion: While global markets are likely to remain choppy, Indian equity market looks attractive at these level, says Geoff Lewis, Global Strategist-Capital Markets Group at Manulife Asset Management. India will benefit more from falling commodity prices and strong domestic growth, Lewis tells CNBC-TV18. He has a neutral view on India and believes investors can increase exposure to quality stocks. Further, he says India's current underperformance is not because of tax fears, but it is because foreign institutional investors (FIIs) are worried that its forward earnings may be downgraded.

9:45 am Market outlook: Harendra Kumar Of Elara Capital feels market downside is limited from current levels and now is a good time to start investing in value stocks.

Market is in a sweet spot with most economic indicators turning positive, he says adding, valuations are comfortable and it is time to cherry-pick good stocks.

Interactions with large foreign institutional investors indicate the recovery will begin soon with high quality companies having strong cash flows and attractive valuations being bought into in the early stage of the rally, he says.

9:30 am Market check: The market is still struggling as the 50-share index breached 7000 intraday. The Nifty is down 5.80 points at 7012.90 and the Sensex is down 8.75 points at 23080.18.

The market has opened flat on a very crucial day of February Future & options expiry and Rail Budget. The Sensex is up 2.37 points at 23091.30 and the Nifty is up 11.15 points or 0.2 percent at 7029.85. About 247 shares have advanced, 106 shares declined, and 20 shares are unchanged.

Hindalco, ONGC, Tata Motors, ICICI Bank and BHEL are top gainers while NTPC, ITC, Hero MotoCorp, Dr Reddy's Labs and HDFC are losers in the Sensex.

The Indian rupee opened higher by 9 paise at 68.47 per dollar on Thursday versus 68.56 Wednesday.Sterling tumbled to a seven-year low on heightened fears of a possible British exit from the European Union, while the safe-haven yen gained broadly.

Mohan Shenoi of Kotak Mahindra Bank said, "Oil prices seem to be stabilising in the USD 30-40/bbl range which could calm the volatile currency markets. The next big trigger for currency markets in India will be the Union Budget. With RBI presence in the market, the USD-INR pair is expected to trade today in a range of 68.35-68.65/dollar."

Some Asian markets rebounded following Wall Street's reversal of sharp intraday losses overnight on the back of higher oil prices, but it wasn't enough to support the Chinese, Australian and Hong Kong markets.

Oil prices retreated again in Asian trading hours with US crude dropping 0.47 percent to USD 32 a barrel, after settling up 0.88 percent in overnight trade. Global benchmark Brent was lower by 0.84 percent at USD 34.12 a barrel, following a 3.4 percent gain during US hours.