Sensex closes lower, Nifty below 8900; banks, telecom, auto drag

3:30 pm Market Closing: Benchmark indices closed lower for the first time in last seven consecutive trading sessions, dragged by banks, telecom and auto stocks.

The 30-share BSE Sensex was down 80.09 points at 28812.88 and the 50-share NSE Nifty fell 42.80 points to 8896.70 while the broader markets outperformed benchmarks despite weak breadth.

Axis Bank was the biggest loser among Sensex stocks, down 3.6 percent followed by ICICI Bank, L&T, HDFC, Bharti Airtel, Maruti and Tata Motors while Reliance Industries gained 4.7 percent.

3:19 pm Motilal Oswal upgrades JSPL: Motilal Oswal has upgraded Jindal Steel & Power to buy and also raised target price to Rs 180 (from Rs 88 earlier).

The brokerage house says, company's Angul site can accommodate much larger 12mtpa capacity, which implies that new capacity addition would require low specific capex, shorter execution cycle, and deliver superior internal rate of return. The site is strategically located in an oversupplied iron ore region and is close to ports.

While there are some risks (steel and coking coal prices, slower production ramp-up) to its estimates, there could be upside if any of several anticipated events (access to iron ore inventories at Sarda mines, captive iron ore mines in auction, PPA for idle 1,500MW capacity, etc) play out, the research firm says.

3:06 pm Nifty breaks 8900: Equity benchmarks extended losses in last hour of trade, with the Nifty slipping below 8900 level, dragged by telecom, banks and infra stocks.

The 30-share BSE Sensex was down 85.05 points at 28807.92 and the 50-share NSE Nifty fell 46.85 points to 8892.65.

3:00 pm Rupee hits 3-month high: The Indian rupee set a three-month peak and the Thai baht hovered at a four-month high, as investors looked to US President Donald Trump's speech to Congress later this week for fresh catalysts.

The Thai baht rose to 34.85 per dollar. That matched Friday's peak, which was the highest in almost four months.

The Indian rupee touched a high of 66.645, its strongest level since November 10.

Emerging Asian currencies such as the baht and Indian rupee held firm ahead of Trump's speech to the joint session of Congress due on Tuesday.

2:55 pm Interview: Mannapuram Finance has picked up Nucleus Software's Finone Neo Solution, which is a loan life cylce management product. Nucleus is a provider of lending and transactions banking solutions.

Speaking to CNBC-TV18, Vishnu Dusad, MD and CEO of the company said after the cloud offering, more than 100 non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) have made enquires about Finone Neo Solution.

There has been a degrowth in the compay's revenue in the last three quarters. Dusad expects financial year 2018 to be a better year for the company.

The company has a cash balance of Rs 400 crore and to use that money it is actively looking at acquisitions. "We are now actively looking at acquisitions in the next 2-3 quarters."

2:50 pm Merger buzz: IndusInd Bank is not the only one interested in striking a deal with Bharat Financial. The newly-listed RBL Bank is also interested in a merger with Bharat Financial, sources with direct knowledge to the development said.

Sources said IndusInd has been negotiating deal valuations with the non-banking finance company.

2:34 pm S&P on Bharti-Telenor: Acquisition of Telenor's India operations will help telecom giant Bharti Airtel improve its market and spectrum position without any material increase in debt, S&P Global Ratings has said.

Its rating on Bharti Airtel (BBB-/stable/--) is unaffected by the company's plans to acquire the India operations of Telenor ASA, it said in a statement. Generally, BBB indicates relatively lesser credit risk and exhibits adequate protection parameters.

"The acquisition, which is subject to regulatory approvals, will help Bharti Airtel improve its market and spectrum position without any material increase in debt," it added.

2:20 pm Expert speak: The market is witnessing strong inflows from domestic as well as foreign investors and will continue to trend higher, Gautam Trivedi, MD and CEO of Religare Capital, said.

"Inflows have been so strong that the earnings have taken a backseat when it comes to deciding the movement in the market." The market is likely to correct if BJP loses state elections in Uttar Pradesh, he said, adding that the quantum of any such correction will depend on the nature of the loss.

Nevertheless, even such a correction should be bought into, he said. He is neutral on the pharma space and suggested investors stay stock-specific for the sector. He likes Cadila , Aurobindo and Sun Pharma from the space.

2:00 pm Market Check
The market continues to remain subdued after in late afternoon trade, with banks and auto stocks dragging the indices.

The Sensex was up 38.63 points at 28931.60 on the BSE, while the Nifty was down 10.55 points at 8928.95. The market breadth continued to remain narrow, with 1,324 shares having advanced, 1,336 shares having declined, while 220 shares remained unchanged.

Reliance, Infosys and Aurobindo Pharma were top gainers on the indices, while Bharti Airtel, Axis Bank and Zee Entertainment were the top losers.

GMR Infrastructure was higher by 5.4 percent intraday after its subsidiary converted its debt into equity by allotting equity shares to the lenders. The consortium of lenders of GMR Chhattisgarh Energy (GCEL), subsidiary of GMR Infrastructure, adopted strategic debt restructuring plan (SDR), under which GCEL has allotted equity shares to all the lenders.

Meanwhile, Indian Oil Corporation fell over 2 percent intraday, following reports of withdrawal of tax sops at its refinery. The Odisha government, on February 22, withdrew tax incentives to the mammoth Rs 34,555 crore worth Paradip refinery, news agency PTI reported. This has made the oil PSU reconsider its plans to invest another Rs 52,000 crore in the state.

The big index-mover, Reliance, soared over 6 percent intraday after Morgan Stanley upgraded its target price citing not just better telecom business, but also an improvement in energy segment as well.

Meanwhile, on the global markets front, European indices have opened in the green, with FTSE, CAC and DAX trading higher around 0.30 percent.

1:51 PM Europe check: Euorpean markets have all opened in the green. The FTSE 100, DAX and CAC 40 gained over 0.30 percent in early morning trade on the indices.

1:43 PM Expert Speak: With inflation coming off and macro indicators starting to look stable, the domestic economy looks quite positive, says Hemant Kanawala, Head of Equity at Kotak Mahindra Old Mutual Life Insurance.

He has a positive view on the consumer discretionary space. He also likes the banking space as he does not expect any further deterioration going forward.

Most stocks in this sector have not come back to their highs after correcting last year and considering it shows good signs of growth, the sector can be looked at from a three-five year perspective, he says.

1:33 PM UK drug regulator on Indian pharma: India is the key supplier of generic medicines to both US and UK and other parts of Europe. So, it is not surprising that the focus is on India, said Gerald W Heddell, Director-Inspection, Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Speaking from the sidelines of the India Pharmaceutical Forum 2017, Heddell said that there are problems in other parts of the world and not just India and Indian companies are doing their best to come up with solutions.

''I have noticed commitments from companies and I have beginning to see the fruits of their efforts as Indian companies are addressing issues that have been previously reported.''

1:20 PM Vodafone ex-CEO on consolidation: The Indian telecom industry needs to consolidate to enable economies of scale and spectrum availability, but pricing power can only come through innovation says Arun Sarin, Former Global CEO of Vodafone. In an interview with CNBC-TV18, Sarin shared his views on the likely merger of Vodafone and Idea Cellular.

Freebies launched by Reliance Jio in September sent the telecom industry scampering for mergers and acquisitions to build size and take on the competition.

Sarin believes, eventually, the industry will be left with just three players – Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone - cornering 90 percent of the market share. This, he says, would be good for the customer as the companies will compete aggressively on pricing. Currently, there are about 13 players in the industry. 

The market saw subdued trade in the afternoon session as investors awaited assembly elections results that will be announced on March 11. Reliance tried to keep the indices in the green, while Axis Bank was a drag on both the indices.

The 30-share Sensex was up 17.67 points at 28910.64 on the BSE, and the Nifty fell 14.40 points to 8925.10. The market breadth remained in favour of declines as 1349 shares fell against 1,238 shares gaining.

Reliance Industries contributed the most in indices' gains. The stock was up over 5 percent following an upgrade in target price from Morgan Stanley. The strong rally helped it to cross Rs 4 lakh crore-mark in market recapitalisation, for the first time since January 18, 2008. Currently, it is the second highest valuable stock in market capitalisation terms after TCS that is valued at Rs 4.88 lakh crore.

Experts stated that the stock was coming out of consolidation after a decade. The stock can still have an appreciation of 20-25 percent going forward on the back of futuristic businesses the company is getting into, Porinju Veliyath, MD, Equity Intelligence India, said. ''Reliance can be a decent compounder from these levels,'' he added.

12:47 pm Amtek in action: Shares of Amtek Group companies saw a spike, following reports of a possible merger of its units in a bid to reduce its debt.

Amtek Auto rose over 4 percent intraday today before falling 2 percent. Meanwhile, Metalyst Forgings and Castex Technologies saw a surge of 3.2 percent and 11 percent, respectively.

Over a series of board meetings of the Group last week, it was decided to undertake a restructuring activity of these companies, according to reports on CNBC-TV18.

The Group, laden with high debt, seeks to undertake this merger to reduce this liability. Currently, Amtek Auto has debt to the tune of Rs 13,500 crore.

12:33 pm Lupin tie-up: Drug major Lupin today said its Japanese subsidiary Kyowa Pharmaceutical Industry Co Ltd has entered into an agreement with Astellas Pharma Inc for exclusive right to distribute and promote extended-release tablets of quetiapine fumarate in Japan.

In a BSE filing, Lupin said "its Japanese subsidiary Kyowa Pharmaceutical Industry Co, Ltd and Astellas Pharma Inc have entered into an agreement providing Kyowa the exclusive right to distribute and promote extended-release tablets of quetiapine fumarate in Japan".

It further said: "Astellas submitted a new drug application (NDA) with the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in Japan for extended-release tablets of quetiapine fumarate for the indication of improvement of depressive symptoms associated with bipolar disorder".

12:15 pm Market Expert: Jayant Manglik of Religare Securities says this week is an important one for the markets as it'll mark the beginning of the new month and lot of macro-economic data viz. core sector data, Nikkei India Manufacturing PMI and Services PMI are lined up. Also, auto sales figures for the February month are scheduled to be announced.

With the beginning of the new expiry, he says there might be some profit taking in index first; however, he is bullish on markets and expects to see a new record high soon.

By and large, it is a buy on dips market but one should maintain caution now in stock selection, he says.

12:00 pm Market Check
Equity benchmarks continued to consolidate in noon trade as investors awaited Q3 GDP data and assembly elections results that will give the market direction on either side.

The 30-share BSE Sensex fell 4.83 points to 28888.14 and the 50-share NSE Nifty declined 18.70 points to 8920.80 after rising 7 percent in previous five consecutive weeks.

Axis Bank lost 3 percent on profit booking. Last week the stock jumped 8 percent on hopes of merger with other private sector lender.

Reliance Industries crossed market capitalisation of Rs 4 lakh crore for the first time since January 18, 2008. The stock surged 5 percent on value buying after Morgan Stanley raised target price on the stock to Rs 1,506 as it believes RIL's energy earnings should exceed market expectations.

Infosys and HUL gained over a percent while ITC, Tata Motors, ICICI Bank, L&T, HDFC and SBI were under pressure.

Jindal Steel & Power gained for eighth consecutive session today, retaining its top position in the buying list among midcaps, up 4.5 percent. The stock jumped more than 41 percent in 8 days.

Oil prices edged higher, with Brent oil set to rise for five out of seven sessions as a global supply glut appears to ease, but rising US production limited gains. Brent crude oil climbed 0.68 percent to USD 56.37 a barrel, while US West Texas Intermediate added 0.57 percent to USD 54.30 a barrel.

11:40 am Mega merger: India's state-run ONGC will take control of HPCL as part of the government's plan to create an integrated public sector oil entity, the Economic Times daily reported today citing top government officials.

India plans to create a giant oil company by combining state-owned firms, finance minister Arun Jaitley said in the budget speech earlier this month as the world's third largest oil consumer looks to better compete with global majors in acquiring foreign assets.

"It is a very big decision. A cabinet note will soon be moved. The government of India will transfer its majority shareholding (of 51.11 percent in HPCL) to ONGC, which will then become the holding company of HPCL," the paper wrote citing one of the officials.

11:20 am Market Expert: The market is witnessing strong inflows from domestic as well as foreign investors and will continue to trend higher, Gautam Trivedi, MD and CEO of Religare Capital, said. "Inflows have been so strong that the earnings have taken a backseat when it comes to deciding the movement in the market."

The market is likely to correct if BJP loses state elections in Uttar Pradesh, he said, adding that the quantum of any such correction will depend on the nature of the loss. Nevertheless, even such a correction should be bought into, he said.

11:00 am Market Check
The market continued to be rangebound in morning, with the Nifty gyrating in 30-point range after reclaiming 8950 in opening. Banks, FMCG, infra, auto and telecom stocks were under pressure while on the other side, Reliance Industries and Infosys were supporting the market.

The 30-share BSE Sensex was up 7.25 points at 28900.22 and the 50-share NSE Nifty fell 14.90 points to 8924.60 while the broader markets moderately outperformed on positive breadth.

About 1222 shares advanced against 1098 declining shares on the BSE.

Reliance Industries retained its top position in the buying list among Sensex & Nifty stocks, up more than 5 percent after Morgan Stanley raised target price on the stock to Rs 1,506 from Rs 1,280 as it feels energy earnings should exceed market expectations.

Bank Nifty fell nearly a percent as bank stocks were under pressure. Axis Bank was biggest loser Bank Nifty stocks, down 2.77 percent followed by Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Yes Bank, PNB, SBI, ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank.

10:55 AM Market check: The market was off day's highs after the surge in early morning trade. The Sensex was up 11.90 points at 28904.87, and the Nifty was down 10.70 points at 8928.80. The market breadth was narrow with 1,200 shares advancing, 1,060 shares declining. About 166 shares were unchanged.

10:45 AM ONGC to take over HPCL? State-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) will take control of Hindustan Petroleum Corp as part of the government's plan to create an integrated public sector oil entity, the Economic Times daily reported on Monday citing top government officials.

India plans to create a giant oil company by combining state-owned firms, finance minister Arun Jaitley said in the budget speech earlier this month as the world's third largest oil consumer looks to better compete with global majors in acquiring foreign assets.

10:30 AM Thumbs up to housing subsidies: SEBI's revised investment limits in housing finance companies (HFCs) for mutual funds will help in increasing avenue of funding available for HFCs, according to Keki Mistry, HDFC's Vice-chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

Last week, market regulator Securities and Exchanges Board of India (SEBI) had increased the limits to which mutual funds can take positions in housing finance companies (HFCs). Mistry said the current total assets under management for debt funds stands at Rs 12 lakh crore and owing to the revised SEBI norms, an additional funding of Rs 50,000 crore to Rs 60,000 crore can be expected for HFCs.

Pointing out to ''very good'' macro data, Mistry said Indian economy is under recovery. He, however, stressed the need for a pickup in private investment cycle. India is still 2-3 quarters away from a pick-up in private investment cycle, he said.

10:20 AM Jefferies on Axis Bank: Broking firm Jefferies feels that Axis Bank is a much better franchise than Kotak Mahindra Bank and there will most likely be counter bids and the pricing could become a winner's curse. Market chatter about Axis Bank being merged with Kotak Mahindra Bank refuses to die down, despite Axis Bank denying the possibility. The Axis Bank stock has been steadily rising over the last week.

''Whether Uday Kotak is currently exploring or KMB board has approached RBI, the case ultimately rests with Axis' board to deliberate,'' says the Jefferies note. The broking firm feels it will not be an easy decision for the board, given the size of the two banks and the significant overlaps in both businesses.

After opening flat, the market gained some strength amid consolidation on the back of strong movements in Reliance Industries. The Nifty is now inching towards 8950 level.

The 30-share Sensex was up 59.74 points at 28952.71, while the Nifty was up 9.00 points at 8948.50. The market breadth was slightly narrow, with 1,150 shares have advanced, 781 shares having declined. Meanwhile, 122 shares remained unchanged.

Reliance was an index-mover in early morning trade, with the stock soaring 6 percent intraday on Monday. The company touched a market capitalisation of Rs 4 lakh crore. The scrip also saw a big upgrade from Morgan Stanley. It increased the target price at Rs 1,506 from Rs 1,280 on the back of better than expected earnings.

Indian Oil Corporation saw a fall of over 2 percent intraday after Odisha government withdrew sales tax sops given to the firm at Paradip refinery. This has made the company rethink its Rs 52,000-crore investment in the refinery.

9:34 am Morgan Stanley ups Reliance target: Morgan Stanley has overweight rating on Reliance Industries, with increased target at Rs 1,506 from Rs 1,280 as it feels energy earnings should exceed market expectations.

Energy return on capital employed is set to rise 500 bps by FY20 to 15 percent, the brokerage house believes.

The stock was quoting at Rs 1,250.60, up Rs 68.00, or 5.75 percent after hitting a fresh 52-week high of Rs 1,251 on the BSE.

Its market capitalisation crossed Rs 4 lakh crore mark.

9:25 am Buzzing: Cadila Healthcare gained more than 2 percent after subsidiary Zydus Cadila received regulatory approvals to launch tetravalent inactivated influenza vaccine for seasonal flu in India.

The company has received approvals from Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) and Central Drug Laboratory (CDL) to market the tetravalent inactivated influenza vaccine Vaxiflu 4 for seasonal flu, Cadila Healthcare said in a filing to BSE.

"The vaccine provides protection from four influenza viruses -- H1N1, H3N2, Type B (Brisbane) and Type B (Phuket)," it added.

9:15 am Market Check
The market opened flat with a negative bias on Monday, tracking weakness in Asian peers and fall in FMCG and private banks stocks.

The 30-share Sensex was down 59.96 points at 28833.01 and the 50-share NSE Nifty fell 21.65 points to 8917.85.

ITC and Idea Cellular were biggest losers, down more than 2 percent followed by Maruti Suzuki, HDFC Bank, M&M, HDFC, BPCL and Bosch.

Reliance Industries continued its run up, up more than 2 percent. GAIL, L&T, ONGC, Infosys, Aurobindo Pharma and Coal India were other gainers.

The Indian rupee gained in the early trade today . It has opened higher by 8 paise at 66.75 per dollar against Friday's close of 66.83.

Pramit Brahmbhatt of Veracity says 66.80 is crucial resistance for rupee.

He expects rupee to break the resistance and to head towards 66.50/dollar. Trading range for USD/INR pair will be 66.50-67/dollar, he says.

The US dollar fell to a more than two-week low against the Japanese yen as investors doubted the likelihood of swift tax reform and a quick spending boost from US President Donald Trump's administration. British pound dipped noticeably in early Asian trade.

Asia markets traded lower, with Sterling tumbling about 0.4 percent to the dollar, while companies continued to report quarterly earnings at February nearly draws to a close.